Automated PDF Accessibility Done Right

Example of a bank statement that can be tagged with automated PDF accessibility using Equidox High-Volume Solution.

Without the right tools, PDF accessibility can be challenging. Many companies lack the time and staff necessary to bring all their digital resources into compliance with ADA and Section 508 requirements. In an effort to meet accessibility goals even with limited resources, many companies turn to out-of-the-box automated solutions that claim to make PDFs and websites accessible. But one-size-fits-all solutions can’t “see” the nuances of unique documents. However, that doesn’t mean automation is out of the question for accessibility. When used correctly, automated accessibility tools can help accessibility professionals and content creators easily make content accessible.

Automated PDF accessibility with help from humans

Generic automated accessibility tools like automated checkers or plug-ins can miss  as much as 70-80% of accessibility errors. They can tell you what elements are coded or tagged for accessibility, but they can’t tell you whether the codes or tags are correct and how the elements contribute to the content of the page. However, automation can make PDF accessibility significantly faster and easier when humans guide the process.

Equidox uses automation in all of its PDF accessibility solutions

Equidox develops the easiest and most efficient PDF accessibility solutions available. That means automating as much of the accessibility process as possible, while still giving the human user control over the end result. Both Equidox Software and Equidox AI (a fully automated solution) incorporate AI to reduce manual effort. 

Equidox Software

Equidox PDF Accessibility Software uses automated features and a suite of AI-powered Smart Detection Tools, which include the Smart Zone Detector, Smart Table Detector, and Smart List Detector.  These tools automate the process by which tags are added to page elements. This means users don’t have to manually interact with a complex tag tree structure. Equidox uses automation to detect which elements should be tagged, then the user quickly and easily confirms or adjusts each element and identifies which tags should be applied upon export. Each of these items can also be viewed in an HTML preview so the user can see how the information would be presented to an assistive technology user.

Smart Zone Detector

The Smart Zone Detector automatically identifies elements on a PDF such as text, images, headings, links, and more. The elements on the page are  marked with “zones.” The Zone Detector is a slider that the user can adjust until the elements are identified. The user can then choose which type of tag  should be applied to each of these zones: – tables, lists, etc. An entire page can be labeled for tags in just a few seconds.

Illustration of Equidox zone detector for automated PDF accessibility


Smart Table Detector

Once Equidox has automatically identified a page element as a zone, and the user has labeled it as a table, Equidox brings up the Smart Table Detector. This Detector uses AI to automatically identify columns  and rows. The Smart Table Detector also auto-populates a table summary, which tells assistive technology users how many columns and rows are in the table, whether any cells are spanned, and more. The whole process is very simple, even for complicated tables. 

Equidox software screenshot showing Table Detector sliders for automated PDF accessibility.

Smart List Detector

Similar to the Smart Table Detector, the Smart List Detector opens when a zone has been labeled as a list. The user can adjust the slider to automatically identify each list item- even nested list items. Like the other Smart Detectors, this process usually takes just seconds. Users can then choose whether the list items use bullets or numbers as delimiters.

Equidox software screenshot showing List Detector Slider


Zone Transfer

Equidox software can eliminate the need to remediate the same document twice with the Zone Transfer feature. If you’re remediating ad-hoc documents that are almost identical, such as documents in multiple languages, remediated PDFs in which typos have been corrected or identical forms completed by multiple people, you can copy and paste the zone structure from a previously remediated document. Then Equidox automatically applies that structure to the new document. The Equidox user can make any minor adjustments as necessary.

Equidox software screenshot showing Zone Transfer button for automated PDF accessibility.


Page Match

If you don’t want to remediate a document from scratch, but you’re sure you’ve seen a similar page before, you can let Equidox select some options for you to choose from. Equidox Page Match scans your database of remediated, validated pages and suggests the best potential matches. You can choose the tag structure that best matches the new page, then Equidox applies the tags automatically on export. You can manually adjust the zones as necessary for a perfectly remediated page. 

Equidox AI: Custom-Designed for Complete Automation

Equidox offers a completely automated solution as well. Equidox AI is powered by our revolutionary, proprietary, machine learning (ML) engine that can be “trained” to identify your unique document elements.  After the initial ML training and customization phase, the end result is a completely hands-off solution.  This cutting-edge ML accessibility technology is only available from Equidox. 

Equidox AI is developed using a sampling of your system-generated, templated documents, such as invoices, customer statements, recurring reports, physicians’ directories, and other repeatable documents. Equidox developers “train” the solution to identify and tag the elements and can even identify outliers and variations among the documents. 

This solution is appropriate for templated documents that are structured the same way but with varying content inside each element, like a bank statement that has a table listing itemized charges, or a provider directory in which the number of providers varies from region to region. 

This solution can be employed locally or on a cloud server, and integrated into an existing production workflow. Every document can be remediated all at once without any human intervention once the solution is deployed. 

Automation is possible with human guidance

While many one-size-fits-all, automated accessibility solutions fall short, Equidox offers automated solutions that eliminate or drastically reduce the  manual work of PDF accessibility while allowing for humans to guide the project for accuracy. Whether you have individual, ad-hoc documents or system-generated, templated PDFs by the thousands (or more), Equidox offers automated solutions that will make PDF accessibility easy.


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Nina Overdorff

Nina comes to Equidox with years of sales and marketing experience from a variety of industries and holds a BS in Language Arts Education. Nina has a passion for words, storytelling, and information, which she believes everyone should have access to regardless of ability. After spending time as a teacher with a blind student, she became much more aware of the limitations and abilities of web accessibility, and how essential it is to those experiencing disabilities. “Being able to access information equally ensures that everyone has an equal opportunity for education, employment, and success in life.”

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