3 Reasons to Make PDFs Accessible

Women coworkers working at a computer to avoid section 508 noncompliance.

PDFs are everywhere

Nearly every website has PDF files. They are the preferred file type for marketing downloads, owner’s manuals, brochures, reports or statements, and forms. Like all web pages, PDF files on your website must be accessible for those assistive technology users accessing your digital content. Accessibility is a legal requirement, it will expand your market, and it fiscally benefits your organization to include everyone. 

Digital accessibility is the law, and it’s being enforced

Digital accessibility lawsuits are up over 200% over the last five years. 2020 saw 3550 digital accessibility lawsuits filed.  UsableNet estimates there will be 4195 digital accessibility lawsuits filed by the end of 2021. Mid-2021 sees 2,092 cases already filed. UsableNet reports 74% of “e-Commerce 500” companies faced lawsuits in the last 3 years for accessibility failures. In 2021, 14% of the top 500 e-Commerce companies face lawsuits. 

In the majority of cases, courts are finding in favor of the plaintiffs. The most common judgment requires the defendant to make their website, including their PDF files, accessible. It’s plain that acting preemptively to reach accessibility compliance is the best way to avoid litigation. The remediation is required. Fix your website before a lawsuit to avoid legal fees and damage to your public reputation. 

According to UsableNet, in the latter half of 2020, plaintiffs filed more than ONE lawsuit PER DAY against companies using automated accessibility overlays to try and achieve accessibility compliance. Accessibility overlays are not meeting accessibility standards. Automated accessibility overlays leave organizations open to lawsuits because they can only address 20-30% of accessibility errors. 

Lack of compliance can damage your market share

Nearly 25% of the US population identifies as having a disability. Address digital accessibility to ensure you reach that quarter of your market. 

Digital accessibility compliance usually leads to a better overall user experience. A study by the UK in 2016 found that 71% of customers with disabilities will leave a website if it’s difficult to use. The study also found that among people with disabilities, “9 out of 10 don’t bother complaining about digital accessibility problems.” Understandably, they will find another organization to provide for their needs, one that is accessible. Additionally, the 2016 study estimated that this resulted in $14.4 billion in lost revenue in the UK alone.  

Another study by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) called the Business Case for Digital Accessibility found that digital accessibility compliance results in better search engine optimization (SEO). This study included a case study by National Public Radio (NPR) that reported a 6.86% increase in search traffic and a 4.18% increase in unique visitors after implementing transcripts for their broadcasts. Note that transcripts are only one element of digital accessibility.  Digital tags used by people with assistive technology are also detected by search engines, and contribute to the SEO of your web content. 

PDFs often comprise sales and marketing content, as well as important documents such as owner’s manuals, product descriptions, and forms. Failure to make your PDFs accessible can be very damaging to your brand.  

Digital accessibility pays

According to Return on Disability, people with disabilities (PWD) are a market the size of China and the European Union combined.  US adults with disabilities command a disposable income of $490 billion.  This is comparable to the African American ($501 billion) and Hispanic ($582 billion) markets.

Add in the friends and family of people with disabilities and that disposable income rises to over $8 trillion. Friends and family of people with disabilities demonstrate loyalty to brands and companies that support accessibility. 

Accessibility is a part of Corporate Social Responsibility.  Over 77% of consumers make spending choices based on companies supporting an issue they care about. Customers with an emotional connection to a brand are 26% more likely to recommend that brand.  

Contribute to your organization’s CSR, and ensure you are not losing out on the enormous benefits that are reaped by supporting people with disabilities. Make a commitment to digital accessibility, including your PDF files.

Digital accessibility is the right choice

Digital accessibility- including PDF accessibility- is not just “nice to have.” It’s the law, it demonstrates inclusiveness, and it’s a vital component of corporate social responsibility. Make it a top priority in your organization, including your PDF documents.

When you’re ready to address your inaccessible PDFs, contact Equidox to learn how!



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Tammy Albee

Tammy Albee | Director of Marketing | Equidox Tammy joined Equidox after four years of experience working at the National Federation of the Blind. She firmly maintains that accessibility is about reaching everyone, regardless of ability, and boosting your market share in the process. "Nobody should be barred from accessing information. It's what drives our modern society."

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Equidox is ready to help!

When you’re ready to address your inaccessible PDFs, contact Equidox to learn how!