The document accessibility space is heating up. With new regulations, rules, litigation, and increasing pressure to make documents accessible, how can organizations provide accessible documents such as personalized invoices, statements and other confidential correspondence to their clients?

In the past, some progressive organizations have offered accommodation documents to their clients. Accommodation documents are essentially a physical alternate format document produced as Braille, Large Font, eText or Audio, delivered to a client that is requesting them. This process typically starts with a printed invoice or statement being manually transcribed into Braille, Large Font, eText or Audio formats. It can take days to transcribe - after the release of the original printed document. As a result, important documents such as a credit card statement will quickly become past due.

More recently companies have employed a hybrid accommodation process where print or print description files can be automated into alternate formats, requiring each alternate format type to be transcribed and set up. This process is generally costly and ultimately does not solve the need for full compliance.

With organizations generating millions of invoices annually or even monthly, and the need to be compliant, this is clearly not the optimum solution! Today, accommodation requests account for 3-4% of the total requests for accessible documents. However, many blind, partially sighted or cognitive disabled individuals don't ask for an accommodation document. They might not even know it's available. Or if they were asked, they might not want to disclose to their service providers that they have a disability.

What is an organization to do? With so many people losing vision to common diseases such as diabetes or macular degeneration, and the need to store these documents for record keeping, the strategy now to ensure compliance is to create all client facing documents in an accessible format - specifically Accessible PDF. This reduces the customer service's needs to manage a client's accessible document preference by asking or waiting for clients to advise what accommodation they would need. This is akin to accessible web sites - make all web sites that an organization delivers fully accessible.

With the proliferation of internet connected devices - PC's, Macs, tablets, and smartphones, a company can quickly be compliant with accessibility regulations by providing accessible PDFs for access electronically via an accessible web portal. An Accessible PDF provides a means to access content either through screen reader software (JAWS, NVDA etc.) or connected hardware such as a refreshable Braille display. With the use of software that can automate the transcription of statements, statements can be generated with accessible tags at the same time a typical PDF is created. This eliminates costly human, manual intervention while allowing organizations to publish the accessible PDF into a portal for immediate consumption.

For the consumer that needs to receive and pay their credit card statement or their wireless bill on-time, the delay to wait for a physical document is virtually eliminated and late fees and the need to contact customer service is reduced. But, what about those individuals that do not use technology and want to have traditional Braille, Large Font, electronic text or Audio? Well there is answer for that as well.

Accessible PDFs can be transformed into alternate document formats such as Braille, Large Font, electronic text or Audio without costly set up or manual transcription into each format for each document. Solutions exist to set up an Accessible PDF for easy transformation into traditional Braille, Large Font, electronic text or Audio. Additionally, for paper based compliance there are also 2D barcode enabled solutions. These solutions allow a paper based transaction statement to be made accessible by laying down a small 2 Dimensional barcode. The barcode, when scanned with a free smart phone or tablet application, allows the user to have the contents of the page read back to them by voice over, or by Large Print to screen, as well as in Braille when enabled with a refreshable Braille display

What used to take days for just a few pages can now convert thousands of pages per second for on-line presentment with accessibility.

Next month we will look at a new and innovative way to ADD accessibility to your documents with minimal document real estate, and add accessibility during your normal print/mail production.

About David Day, EDP

David Day, EDP brings over 32 years of experience in the document management & mail industry. As an active member of Xplor for over 17 years, David frequently presents at local and global Xplor meetings. He has also been a guest speaker at various company user and industry groups including National Postal Forum, Graph Expo and Mailcom. David, Product Marketing Manager at CrawfordTech, is responsible for worldwide for their Enterprise Output Management Products. He works with customers, prospects, sales and product development to identify customer requirements, evaluate solutions and make product recommendations