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. Sometimes the PDF shows nothing at all digitally, even if there is information visible on the page. But how do you approach making these PDFs ADA 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, such as our team of experts at Equidox, assign someone to be the liaison. They will communicate with the vendor and track the documents coming and going. They will also ensure the website is updated with the remediated PDFs. The coordinator should also assign remediators to work on any documents your organization chooses to remediate in-house. They should choose software that will make the process easy for all of the remediators. Have a look at Equidox’s PDF remediation software, which makes remediation 90% faster than other solutions. It’s easy for everyone to use, whether or not they’re experienced with accessibility.
2. Remove any unnecessary documents
Many websites become a repository of outdated, unused, duplicate, and deprecated documents. Post only the fully accessible PDFs on your website. There should not be multiple copies of the same document labeled “for print,” “normal” and “accessible.” Just a single, accessible copy. As your team reviews the PDFs on your website, any that fall into these categories should be removed.
3. Post an accessibility notice
Meanwhile, you should post an accessibility statement. It should include how anyone needing an accessible PDF from your website can obtain a remediated copy. Assign a person to monitor the incoming requests. 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.
4. Start with the most used and visible PDFs
Remediating all the PDFs on your website may be a long-term project taking 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 them on your list of urgent files. Make these accessible 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. This is the best first step in your plan to remediate PDFs on your website.
5. 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 lots of complex lists and tables, or which already have some digital tagging. These can often be completed in-house. Consider using software such as Equidox, which doesn’t require PDF accessibility expertise. Leave the complex documents, especially any that are scanned, or require detailed alt text descriptions, or contain complicated infographics, for last.
6. Work steadily on what remains
Create a timeline for the completion of your website 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. Having a plan to remediate PDFs on your website will show that you are working in good faith to resolve the issue. Many organizations will outsource their PDF backlog to save manpower. Equidox PDF remediation experts will ensure your PDF backlog is accessible, usable, and accurate.
7. 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 for mandating that all new content that is created must be in an accessible format (there are other formats that are more easily made accessible than PDFs). You don’t want newly created content adding to your backlog of inaccessible documents. If necessary, train your staff on how to create accessible PDFs and to remediate any that are not “born” accessible. Equidox PDF remediation software is both easy to use and very easy to learn. We offer free training and free ongoing support.
A plan to mitigate risk
PDFs are one of the most inaccessible documents found on websites. It’s important to ensure they are ADA compliant. Appoint a coordinator, decide whether you are working in-house or outsourcing the remediation (or both!), work on the most commonly accessed 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.
Ryan Pugh | Director of Accessibility | Onix Prior to joining Onix, 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.