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Shannon Kelly

  PDF Accessibility

12/02/2013

Four Key Drivers for Organizations to Provide Accessible Electronic Documents

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Customers with disabilities, including the visually impaired, want to be able to access their bills and statements using the same methods everyone else does, writes Shannon Kelly, a Document Accessibility SME from Actuate.

PDF AccessibilityIn today’s digital age, creating accessible and usable transactional documents (bank and credit card statements, utility bills, insurance and medical billing, etc.) that are available online and on-demand is more important than ever. Customers with disabilities, including the visually impaired, want to be able to access their bills and statements using the same methods everyone else does, and strict regulations in many countries give them exactly that right. However, those regulations aren’t the only reason financial institutions, government and other organizations with high-volume content should be considering on-demand accessibility for their online PDFs.

Here are four key reasons why organizations, in any country, should offer accessible transactional PDF documents:

  • Differentiate the company. If an organization offers accessible online transactional documents, it will become the organization of choice for customers with disabilities, including the visually impaired, who require those options – and by others who want to support companies that make accessibility a priority.
  • Avoid lawsuits. In the US, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act require that federal government and other organizations offer comparable and equivalent access to public places and to electronic systems and digital content. For some major financial institutions, – that has led to expensive claims, in the range of $10 million and over. Embracing accessibility can save companies from that kind of pricey litigation. In other parts of the world, local legislation applies (AODA in Canada, etc.)
  • Cut costs. Besides eliminating the costs of those potential lawsuits, providing accessible online documents  through a solution that’s integrated with the company’s existing Enterprise Content Management (ECM) infrastructure eliminates the need for manual document tagging on a case-by-case basis – a time-intensive and potentially expensive process. In addition, it can reduce the costs of providing documents in other alternative formats such as Braille, large print, or audio.
  • Build a community of satisfied customers. When transaction-oriented documents are accessible, customers with disabilities, including the visually impaired, are offered the same opportunities that sighted customers have: the ability to access their transactional data online, efficiently and immediately. In this scenario, customers with disabilities no longer need to identify themselves or submit requests for accessible electronic formats. Customers are no longer penalized by the delay in delivery of their accessible format and are provided an equivalent experience and opportunity to make time-sensitive decisions, which leads to happier customers.

It is important to keep in mind, that the larger the customer base, the more transactional documents will be created every day, month or year. Furthermore, with more documents come higher costs of manual document remediation and higher risk of lawsuits. This is why - including the four reasons discussed earlier – organizations such as financial institutions that serve millions of customers, often in many countries with different regulations, will benefit the most from implementing a solution that would make all their transactional documents accessible online and on-demand.

Considering that PDF format is universally prevalent for presenting statement, policy and billing information for regulatory and archival requirements, the American Foundation for the Blind has recently published a white paper, PDF Document Accessibility: Regulations, Risks and Solutions for Compliance. This white paper provides a wealth of information and expert advice to financial institutions and other organizations regarding PDF document accessibility issues. The whitepaper is also available for download on Actuate.com's website.

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Related Resources

Blog: "More Than One-Fifth of the World's Population May be Vulnerable to a Digital Divide" | Article by G3ict Research Team.

Publications: Web Accessibility for Better Business Results - G3ict Innovation Series White Paper | Download PDF.

Event: ICTD 2013, Cape Town, South Africa | December 7-10, 2013 | Event Details.