The importance of accessibility cannot be overstated in the digital-first world today; and thus, comes the term ‘digital accessibility.’ Just as ramps are an all-inclusive option to staircase, making the digital content readily available to all individuals, regardless of their abilities, helps in ensuring digital accessibility.
This implies that websites, services, and documents, whether Word, PPT, PDFs, etc., should be equally accessible to everyone, whether the individual relies on assistive technology or not. One significant area where digital accessibility is often overlooked is in Portable Document Format (PDF) files. These seemingly innocuous files can pose significant barriers to individuals with disabilities.
But according to research, only a minute portion i.e. 3% of the Internet is accessible to people with disabilities. For example, individuals with severe vision impairment may require a screen reading device that relies on page metadata to interpret and verbally describe graphical elements like charts. In contrast, color blindness, while not necessitating a screen reading device, can still pose challenges in everyday activities, especially when content lacks sufficient contrast between foreground and background colors, making text difficult to read. This is where accessible PDFs come to the rescue.
Compliance and Beyond: The Significance of Accessible PDFs
Ubiquitous in the corporate world, PDF files are used for a wide range of documents, including reports, manuals, brochures, and forms. Most organizations use PDFs as a vital part of their digital assets, databases, apps, websites, servers, etc. However, these standard PDF files often fall short in terms of accessibility.
Inaccessible PDFs can be a considerable hindrance to individuals with disabilities, including those with cognitive disabilities who may require simplified language or navigation or individuals with visual impairments who rely on screen readers and those with motor impairments who may use alternative input devices. Thus, there’s a need for document remediation services.
PDF remediation goes beyond mere compliance with accessibility regulations. It brings forth several significant benefits:
The legal landscape has evolved to reflect the importance of PDF accessibility. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and the Rehabilitation Act Section 508 mandate that digital content, including PDFs, must be accessible to people with disabilities. Non-compliance with these regulations can result in legal actions and reputational damage to organizations. By making your PDFs accessible, you mitigate legal risks and demonstrate your commitment to inclusivity and compliance with accessibility standards.
Consistent Visual Presentation
Another primary advantage of document remediation lies in its ability to maintain consistent visual presentation across diverse platforms including desktop and mobile devices, regardless of whether users are on Mac or Windows. An accessible PDF must be readable, regardless of the assistive technologies used, and it must deliver information accurately to the reader.
Wider Audience Reach
Individuals with disabilities form the world’s largest minority market. This is because disability isn’t limited to birth or accidents. As people age, their experience with a utility, a store, or a service – both online and offline gradually changes. Whereas accessible PDFs can be consumed by a broader audience, including individuals with disabilities. This inclusivity enhances your document’s reach and impact.
Investing in accessibility fosters a positive image for your organization. Going the extra mile to meet accessibility standards shows that you are considerate of all users and their diverse needs. This way, you not only reach enhanced accessibility standards, but also carve a unique niche for yourself in the industry and get a competitive advantage.
Accessible PDFs often perform better in search engine rankings. This is because the tags and other informational elements added make it easier to crawl through the website and enhance your document’s discoverability, making it a useful feature for all individuals, irrespective of whether they have any form of disability or not. This is beneficial for both your audience and your organization.
PDF Remediation Essentials: Creating Inclusive Documents
PDF remediation is the process of making PDF files accessible to individuals with disabilities. It involves various steps, including document structure analysis, text recognition, tagging, and testing with assistive technologies. Another important thing to note is that tagging is just one aspect of the remediation process.
Step-by-Step Guide on How to Remediate Your PDFs for Accessibility:
1. Begin with a Structured Document
A well-structured document lays the foundation of PDF accessibility. Ensure that your content is logically organized using headings, lists, and proper formatting. It is better to avoid scanned images or unsearchable text as they impede accessibility.
2. Choose the Correct Fonts and Styles
Use fonts and styles that are easily readable, avoiding ornate or decorative fonts. Keep a minimum font size of 12 points for body text to enhance readability. Additionally, ensure that there is sufficient contrast between text colors and background colors.
3. Insert Alternative Text for Images
All images in your PDF should have alternative text descriptions. This is crucial for individuals who rely on screen readers to understand the content of images. Write concise and descriptive alternative text.
4. Content Tagging and Structuring
Tags provide the structure for a document, assisting screen readers to interpret it correctly. Make sure to add tags to headings, paragraphs, lists, tables, and other content elements. Also, use semantic markup for tables to specify headers and data cells.
5. Create Meaningful Hyperlinks
If your PDF contains hyperlinks, ensure that they have descriptive text instead of generic phrases like ‘click here’ or ‘read more.’ Descriptive links provide context and make navigation easier for users who rely on assistive technologies.
6. Ensure Correct Reading Order
Set the document’s language to the appropriate one to ensure that screen readers pronounce words correctly. Verify that the reading order of your content follows a logical sequence, so it is coherent when read aloud by assistive technologies.
7. Test with Assistive Technologies
Before finalizing your remediated PDF, test it with popular screen readers and other assistive technologies to identify and address any issues. This step is essential to ensure that your document is truly accessible.
In an increasingly digital world, making your PDFs accessible is not only a legal requirement but also a moral imperative. And, PDF remediation is a critical process that ensures your documents are accessible to all individuals, regardless of their abilities. You can rely on professional PDF remediation services to take significant strides toward creating a more inclusive and accessible digital environment. Embracing accessibility not only benefits those with disabilities but also enhances your organization’s reputation, widens your audience reach, and demonstrates your commitment to inclusivity in the corporate world.