8-Step Plan to Remediate PDFs on Your Website 

A group consulting around a laptop discussing how to remediate PDFs. Everyone is smiling.

PDF files can be the worst offenders 

Some of the worst offenders for website inaccessibility are PDF files. They are often completely inaccessible to people with disabilities who use assistive technology when accessing the internet. While information may show up visually on the page, untagged documents show up as blank to assistive technology users.  But how do you approach making these PDFs ADA and Section 508 compliant? What if you have a backlog of hundreds or even thousands of files living on your website? You will need a plan to remediate PDFs on your website. 

Ryan Pugh, Equidox Director of Accessibility, gives the following recommendations:


1. Assign a team or individual to oversee the project

Choose someone to coordinate the project. This person will be responsible for collating a list of all the PDFs contained on your website, with URLs, and keeping track of them as they are updated. If you decide to use an outside service provider to remediate your PDFs, assign someone to be the liaison and communicate with the vendor. When approaching the project in-house, the coordinator should also assign remediators to work on any documents. They will also be responsible for finding the best remediation tools and solutions to make the process easy for all of the remediators. Equidox offers software and solutions that use AI to make PDF remediation faster and easier for anyone on your team, whether or not they have any accessibility experience.


2. Evaluate your documents and choose tools

Once the team or individual has been assigned to coordinate the project, they will need to evaluate the list of PDFs they’ve compiled and determine how they will make them accessible. If your organization has tons of individually produced PDFs like marketing documents and other communications, Equidox Software may be the best fit. For templated, high-volume documents like statements, recurring reports, invoices and other billing documents, ID cards, and other similar documents, Equidox AI can completely automate the process. You’ll also want to discern which documents are the most used and most important to your customers. Those are the documents you should remediate first. 


3. Remove any unnecessary documents 

Many websites store outdated, unused, duplicate, and deprecated documents. These need to be reviewed and any unnecessary documents should be removed. Be sure the only PDFs on your website are accessible copies–there should not be multiple copies of the same document labeled “for print,” “normal,” and “accessible.” Just a single, accessible copy. 


4. Post an accessibility notice

Meanwhile, you should post a notice about how anyone needing an accessible PDF from your website can obtain a remediated copy. Respond to any such inquiries immediately, even if you cannot provide the document right away. Be sure to follow up as soon as the file is available. Although waiting for information is one of the most frustrating experiences for anyone using assistive technology, being ignored is even worse. Respond as quickly as possible to help avoid digital accessibility litigation. 


5. Start with the most used and visible PDFs

Remediating all the PDFs on your website may be a long-term project that takes several months or longer to complete. Start with the most recent and the most visible PDF files. You can track on your website analytics which PDFs get the most traffic and include these on your list of urgent files. Remediate those documents as soon as possible. This can reduce your risk of accessibility lawsuits and make the vital information on those PDF files available to the largest number of people. Also prioritize the documents that are most important to your clients, like their invoices, reports, financial statements, medical information, ID cards and more. Templated, high-volume PDFs like those can automatically be remediated with Equidox AI, freeing up your team to work on the other documents.


6. Follow with the easiest documents

Next, you should turn your attention to the easiest documents to remediate – the low-hanging fruit. Documents that are primarily text, without complex lists and tables, or which already have some digital tagging. Complex documents, especially any that are scanned, require detailed alt text descriptions, or contain complicated infographics, should be left for last. 


7. Finally, work steadily on what remains

Create a timeline for the completion of the PDF remediation. Have your remediation coordinator or team track the progress. It only takes one inaccessible document to trigger an accessibility lawsuit, so be sure to make all of your PDFs compliant. This timeline or roadmap can be helpful if you do get sued – it will show that you are working in good faith to resolve the issue. 


8. Train content creators to handle their own remediation

To avoid any future need to remediate PDFs on your website, make your content creators accountable for the accessibility of their PDFs. Set a date to mandate that all newly created PDF content be accessible. Select easy-to-use software and solutions and train your staff on how to use them to create accessible PDFs. Equidox PDF remediation software is both easy to use and very easy to learn. We offer free training and free ongoing support. Equidox AI automatically makes high-volume, templated documents accessible and can be set to run without any manual intervention, making it easy for the document generation team to implement.


A plan to mitigate risk

PDFs are one of the most inaccessible document formats found on websites and it’s important to ensure they are legally compliant. Appoint a coordinator, decide whether you are working in-house or outsourcing the remediation, evaluate your documents and choose tools accordingly, work on the most important documents first, and ensure all future documents uploaded to your website are accessible. Following these steps will go a long way to mitigating your risk of digital accessibility lawsuits and ensure your digital information reaches everyone. 

Need help building a plan? We’re here to help. Contact us! Equidox offers easy-to-use PDF remediation software and a fully automated, AI-powered solution called Equidox AI.


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Ryan Pugh

Ryan Pugh | Director of Accessibility | Equidox Prior to joining Equidox, Ryan Pugh served as an Access Technology Analyst for the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) in Baltimore, where he was the NFB's focal point for accessibility and usability testing. He conducted intensive web accessibility audits for compliance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA for numerous Fortune 500 companies, including some of the world’s largest online retailers, notable colleges and universities, government agencies at the federal, state, and local levels and for other non-profit institutions. He also delivered accessibility training workshops and managed the NFB’s document remediation program, specializing in PDF accessibility.

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