How does an organization tackle a large archive or backlog of inaccessible PDFs, while minimizing ADA liability? This 30-minute webinar explores staffing, training, methods, and tools for making your PDFs accessible.
Equidox by Onix. Reach everyone.
[Dan Tuleta] All right so it is just about two o’clock, so I think we should get started.
So welcome everyone! For those of you are here who are here, to another edition of Equidox Webinar Wednesdays. This week, or this month rather, we are going to be talking about developing a PDF remediation plan, and the subtitle here “Divide and conquer – the easy path to PDF accessibility.”
So as always just so, if you need to reach out to us, or get in touch, we can be reached at EquidoxSales@Onixnet.com. Our website is www.Equidox.co and our 800 number is 800-664-9638. So if you have any questions as a follow-up to whatever we talk about here in this webinar. Please don’t hesitate to reach out. We have people standing by ready to chat with you and learn more about your PDF accessibility challenges and how we might be able to help.
So just a quick plug about our parent company. So Equidox is a division of Onix Networking. Primarily Onix Networking is a cloud consultancy. So we are partnered with Google as well as AWS and our mission is to improve organizational efficiency through cloud computing solutions. So Equidox is the accessibility division within Onix. We also have of course software as well as many different accessibility services which we will touch on today during the webinar. We are founded back in 1992, and we are headquartered in Cleveland Ohio. If anyone is curious about Onix or any of our other offerings, please don’t hesitate to reach out and ask. We are a very well-rounded cloud consultancy. So just to put up a couple of logos of the people that we serve both through Onix as well as Equidox. Just to pop up a few logos here.
So today what we’re going to be talking about is taking some steps to making your website accessible. And part of making your website accessible is of course addressing the PDF documents that are located on that website. So you can make a huge effort to develop and code an accessible website, but if you are posting inaccessible content particularly in the form of PDF documents to that website, that can kind of undo a lot of the work that you would have done to generate that accessible website. So the main steps that we’re going to talk about today are assigning staff, evaluating the scope, creating a written plan, prioritizing the documents, choosing a tool or a vendor, remediating and validating the documents, as well as ongoing maintenance to make sure that you are not creating new content that is also inaccessible.
So first things first, is assigning a staff. So we need to determine who is going to take responsibility for document accessibility within your organization. Now depending on the vertical that you’re in, there could be entire departments in charge of this. There might be an individual that’s sort of leading the charge in terms of document accessibility. So, for example, in enterprise or perhaps government, maybe, there’s a marketing or communications department… there might be website managers that are in charge… there could be an entire internal accessibility team assigned to managing the website managing the documents posted to that website. On the other hand, if you’re in higher ed, for example, you might have a disability resources or a disability services department. Or it could also fall in line with the IT department or whoever is in charge of managing the content on the website.
So really what you’ll want to do just starting things off is assign the various roles based on the bandwidth that these different teams and individuals have and the skill sets that they each have as well. So, for example, you might have people that are very techy that like to spend a lot of time behind a computer, maybe they’re a bit introverted and they just like to focus on their project, on what they’re working on. They might be a good remediator because they can spend a lot of time, you know, working on documents, making sure that they’re accessible. Whereas if you have people that may not be quite so techy, or may not have the patience to sit behind a computer remediating documents, they might be better for managers or overseeing the larger-scale projects that are going on.
So step two is evaluating the scope. So many PDFs so little time. So what we’re talking about here is doing a bit of spring cleaning. So what you want to do is determine what is relevant and what is important on your website that needs to stay public-facing. There can also be a lot of documents that you might be able to archive or remove them from the public-facing website or intranet. And also there’s probably many documents that can be permanently deleted. These might be old advertisements, old newsletters, meeting minutes from 20 years ago… We’ve seen some pretty interesting documents that our clients have had no idea that they were actually still up on the website. You know 15-20-year-old documents talking about some event that was scheduled back, you know, in 2005. These are types of documents that can present a legal liability to you if they are inaccessible, but they probably have very little need to stay on the websites.
Now there are different website auditing and scanning tools that can be used to assist in this process, but really the main thing is trying to understand exactly how many documents you have and prioritize those documents, making sure that you’re addressing what’s important first and then moving on to other documents that may fall down that line of importance.
Step three is writing a plan. So the roadmap to accessible documents. Now having a plan written out showing that you’re being proactive rather than reactive can actually offer you some protection against litigation, because it shows it shows that you are being proactive… That you do have things in motion, that you are trying to change the culture within your organization, you’re trying to make major updates to your digital presence. And also it’s important to understand your deadlines in your timeline. So do you have internal deadlines set, perhaps there’s something set within your organization where you have to meet a certain level of compliance by a certain day? There could also be external deadlines. Perhaps you’ve received letters from the Office of Civil Rights, from law firms, from angry clients or customers that can’t access content on your website. So trying to evaluate what your deadlines are and making sure that you are taking the steps to meet them. Now there can be many different roles in a document accessibility workflow, so it’s also important to determine who is responsible for each component of that workflow. Or in some cases, you might elect that all content creators, anyone that’s posting any content, are responsible for their own documents, and they need to make sure that they are remediated and accessible before those documents get posted.
So step four: prioritizing these documents. So which documents come first. So this, again, kind of relates back to a previous slide, where we’re talking about the scope. So they’re… what you really want to focus on first are the documents that are most often used. So you might realize that there are 10-15 or 20 documents that are clicked on very frequently on your website. And these documents will be the highest priority, because they are getting the most interactions. They are most likely to cause accessibility issues for people that are using assistive technology, trying to access the content.
Beyond the most used document, these will be the most recent documents. So the most up-to-date information, the newest financial report, the newest newsletter, the newest product line, whatever it may be. These are going to be the second most critical.
The third step in the prioritization should typically be the lowest complexity. So the documents are the easiest to remediate. Now if you’ve never done document accessibility work before, PDFs can fall on a very wide scale of complexity. So the lowest complexity documents can be very simple to remediate and address their accessibility issues; however, there can be documents that are much more complicated. Depending on the content, depending on who designed it, how old that document is… there’s a number of factors that go into it. So those might be the documents where you want to hold off and just take down from the website for the time being and let a professional deal with it.
So most used, most recent, the lowest complexity, and then deal with everything else after that. This is kind of the… this is really like the great way to get yourself started. So if you don’t start somewhere, you’re gonna get nowhere. So it’s best to just start with the most used because these are the most likely to have people complaining that they cannot access your content.
So step 5, choosing a tool or a vendor. So what you’ll want to do is evaluate the cost of these different solutions against your budget. So first you need to have a budget, of course, but what you’ll need to look at is are we going to purchase software tools and put our staff through training, or should we look at just outsourcing all of these projects. Of course, the alternative if you elect to ignore PDF accessibility, could be an expensive and ongoing lawsuit that will cause brand damage and just be quite a pain in your side. So again it’s best to be proactive about this because digital accessibility is not going anywhere. This is definitely something that you need to get moving on.
Now another thing that you want to do is figure out the existing skill level of your current staff and you can decide then if you need to hire in maybe additional staff that has more expertise in document accessibility… Do you want to train your existing staff? How much training would be required? So that’s another thing to consider. Are we talking about documents that are being generated in the future? We can talk about document design and creating accessible content from scratch versus working through a very large and extensive backlog of documents and trying to retrofit potentially tens of thousands of pages worth of PDF documents to make sure that they are compliant and meet these modern standards for accessibility.
Now another thing that needs to be considered in this process is determining how much content needs to be remediated. So going back to the scope slide, you know, understanding how many documents there are do you have? Hundreds of documents? Thousands of documents? Potentially even millions of documents that need to be remediated before being reposted to the website? And also how much content are you generating on a regular basis. So there’s a difference between having a large backlog of maybe 20 or 30 years worth of PDF documents sitting there in a database, versus documents that are being produced and posted to the website on a frequent and ongoing basis.
And also, of course, what is the timeline? So again, the internal versus external deadlines, and again, it’s always better to be proactive versus reactive. So all of these factors will play into your decision whether you are going to go for an in-house solution using software and various tools to remediate documents, or if you are just going to take all of these documents and outsource them to a service provider that can remediate and validate them for you.
So step six is of course remediating the documents. So remediating the documents can be done internally through different software tools, or of course, you can outsource it, as I’ve mentioned before. So this is again part of the decision-making process. Understanding who is on your staff, what are the skill levels, what is the bandwidth, how much time do they have in their day-to-day jobs to start working through documents, versus constantly updating and working through new content that they are generating. So these are all factors that are important so it’s just something to consider. An internal use of software versus outsourcing those documents.
Now the seventh step is validating the documents. So using testing tools to ensure that these documents are, in fact, compliant. Now any outsource partner that you work with, any good outsourcing partner that you work with will handle this validation step for you. So you are always free to use additional testing techniques to provide additional validation, but this is something that an outsourced partner would build into the pricing of their document remediation services. Making sure that these documents that they are sending back to you are compliant and they meet all of the accessibility standards that you are trying to achieve.
Now for in-house remediation, if you’re doing this using software yourself, there can be a combined use of both automated and manual testing techniques. So there are many different accessibility checkers, quote-unquote, that are designed to scan PDFs and look for accessibility barriers within those PDFs, within the structure of them. So these tools are common. Adobe Acrobat, for example, has a built-in accessibility checker. Another one is called the PAC3 checker. These are probably the two most common, synonymous with PDF accessibility checking.
However, just passing a checker does not necessarily indicate that the document is accessible and usable, and compliant. There can be a lot of ways to trick these checkers into thinking that something is compliant when it is in fact is not at all compliant. So there typically needs to be another layer of validation applied. And what comes in with that is using assistive technology yourself such as a JAWS or NVDA screen reader in actually interacting with the document. Using assistive technology to confirm the usability of the document. So usability and accessibility are not necessarily the same thing. Neither is compliance. So these are different things that have different definitions in terms of PDF documents. So really taking it that extra step of the way is the only true way to validate your work, making sure that you’re using a combination of both automated and manual testing techniques.
So step eight is maintenance. So with accessibility, in terms of PDF documents and websites, this is content that is constantly being updated and added to. So as you are generating new content, as you change your website, website architecture, all of these things need to be accounted for. You need to make sure that you are practicing good accessible design techniques. Making sure that you are staying up to date with new accessibility requirements that may become law at some point. And just understand that everything is changing in this digital world very quickly.
So as more and more content is being posted (your organization may have hundreds of people that are that have the capability of posting content to the website), so if you have rogue employees that aren’t following the accessibility plan that you’ve set forth in your organization, there might be people posting inaccessible content to your website presenting legal liabilities for your organization.
So this is an ongoing maintenance that you need to keep an eye on your website. And the content being posted publicly on there. So this is just another final step in the process making sure that we are constantly maintaining and working through all of the documents that are being generated and posted.
Now I want to introduce our Equidox PDF remediation software. So I’ve mentioned before the difference between in-house document remediation versus outsourcing documents. So if you are interested in discussing this more we can of course have a side chat about how Equidox works more specifically towards your organization. But Equidox is a cloud-based PDF remediation software, and it is designed specifically for document remediation. It is designed for speed and ease of use. So we’re trying to lower that learning curve for people that may not be accessibility experts to be able to remediate their own content, as well as very quickly and efficiently work through backlogs of documents. So this is definitely… I will actually in a few minutes…
I’m actually going to open up Equidox and I will give you a quick sneak peek of what a remediation process looks like. But this is just a software tool that you can consider in your evaluation process when you’re trying to determine between outsourcing or bringing in a software tool that may help along the way.
Now, this is a competitor comparison. I believe this information is located front and center on our website so I won’t spend too much time on this slide, but this is just to kind of compare Equidox versus a couple of our main competitors.
Now the other option here is our professional conversion services. So our internal team of experts are able to remediate documents for you and send them back. So our Equidox PDF remediation team, we’re very flexible in how we work with our clients. So we want to address your needs as they come in. So you can send us documents, request a quote, we will evaluate the documents based on the volume, the complexity, the repetitiveness of those documents, and we will provide you with a quote.
So once we have those documents and you agree to the quoted price, our experts will remediate (and our team primarily uses Equidox as our remediation tool) and we will also put it through a rigorous validation process using a combination of automated and manual testing techniques as I briefly mentioned before. Once we are satisfied with the quality of those documents, making sure that they are meeting or exceeding all accessibility standards in terms of compliance as well as usability, we will return those documents to you. N
ow, this process is very minimal involvement for the client. So you’re typically just sending us documents agreeing to a price and you can wait and we will send the documents back to you, typically within a few business days. But the actual return deadlines can be negotiated and discussed based on your timelines as well as the volume of the project.
Now, this is something to consider, where if you have you know tens of thousands of documents, using an outsource partner can really start to add up the price. So that’s just another thing to consider when you’re trying to evaluate software versus PDF conversion services. The pricing is based on a per-page basis. So you can imagine if you have tens of thousands of documents that price can start to really snowball. So that’s just another part of the evaluation process. Determining whether you’d like to keep it in-house or if you would like to outsource it altogether.
Now one thing that we would recommend is using a hybrid model. So what I mean by a hybrid model is this is a way of minimizing the expense of using remediation services but without putting too much of a burden on your internal staff. So what this would entail is obtaining the software and using a tool like Equidox to work through the less complicated documents, and the new content that is being generated, and then you’re able to pick and choose the documents you would like to outsource. So these might be very complicated documents… these might be documents that you have a very tight deadline for… that you need to get returned and posted very quickly and your staff doesn’t have the time to go through the learning curve of how to remediate it internally themselves… or you could have a very large backlog that is determined to be critical documents that need to be remediated but you just don’t have the bandwidth or the staff to handle it. So this is a way of combining both services as well as software and kind of addressing the PDF accessibility issue in a well-rounded, balanced way.
Now we do have a couple of quick stories, and if Pat is on the line, he wants to come off mute, he was going to tell a couple of quick stories about using the hybrid model within Equidox. Pat are you there?
[Pat Needles] Absolutely can you hear me okay?
[Dan] Yep I can hear you loud and clear.
[Pat] Excellent, excellent. Thank you, Dan. And you know, you just kind of hit on the hybrid model, which you know I’ll give a couple of examples of how our clients use that methodology. Oftentimes, as we know, organizations struggle with their content and how to make it accessible. Especially in the beginning while still new to them. And this is where that methodology really kind of comes into play. You know, while you’re still learning the process, and as you get better at it from a remediation standpoint, you can do more in-house.
As we know, outsourcing can get expensive, especially for larger organizations, or organizations that have a lot of documentation. And so Equidox is in basically all verticals of the marketplace.
We have customers in large universities, large community college systems that use Equidox in-house, hundreds of copies of software. But to Dan’s point, oftentimes the content is overwhelming or too difficult to do in-house. And so they outsource to us. And that really helps them get to where they need to be.
Oftentimes organizations (excuse me) have deadlines, and that’s another reason why they might send their document documentation to us. We also deal with large government agencies who have huge amounts of documentation, and hundreds of licenses of Equidox, but they have millions of pages of backlog content that needs to be remediated. And that’s where we come in to help. Especially with our existing customers. They get very good pricing on that.
And we’ll show you the tools shortly, to show you how efficient the product is and how quick you can get it done. So it’ll definitely be cheaper for you in the long run than, you know… In the enterprise world, we deal with a lot of large financial companies. Banks, insurance organizations that have hundreds if not thousands of content creators. So again they have a big backlog and they’re constantly creating new documentation. So they appreciate the services and letting us help them out.
And so, you know, everybody’s got their own unique situation big or small, but it’s a good method to think about because it does definitely get you to the end goal quicker. With that, Dan, I’ll turn it back to you.
[Dan] All right great thank you, Pat. And it just occurred to me that I didn’t do the best job of introducing you. But that was the voice of Pat Needles, our fearless leader here on the Equidox team. Senior Sales Manager and someone that you very well might get to know if you are interested in engaging in a conversation about our product or our services.
I’m actually going to jump here to a quick Equidox demo. So what I’ll do is I’m going to leave the presentation, and I’m going to open up our Equidox software. Now, this is a quick view of our Equidox software. And this is just a list of documents that have been loaded in for remediation.
And so what I’ll do is, I’ll bring in a new document just to kind of go through a quick little workflow of how document remediation can work using Equidox. So I’m going to upload a document directly from my hard drive, by just dragging and dropping it into this gray area, and then I will press this blue import button. And then Equidox, during this import button, is basically just trying to understand the structures of the document. Whether it be tagged previously or not.
In this case, this document was not previously tagged, so Equidox is going to use its automation to determine where there are specific breaks and paragraphs. For example, it’s going to determine where the images are, if there are links, so on and so forth. It is going to do its best to essentially automate and speed up that process for you so you’re not having to do so many manual steps on your own.
Now, this is just a very generic PDF document that I have made for sample purposes because it kind of squeezes in some of the main components that might make up a PDF document. Any typical PDF document. But it squeezes it all into a single page.
Now once I have the document loaded up, I can click on it and I have the document detail page. One thing I’ll mention here before jumping in is the Images Tab. Where I can actually see a consolidated list of the two images in this document. Now if this document had 500 images in it, which may be the case if you have longer documents, what’s very helpful here is you have this consolidated list of images so you’re able to address things like alt text right upfront. And you’re able to, you know, kind of consolidate that effort and streamline that process of adding the alternate text to images which is one of the critical components of accessibility. Making sure that the images in your document have a description so that a non-visual user is able to understand the content and the context of that image in the document.
Now I’m going to click on the first page here. Well, there is only one page. And when I do that I am presented with Equidox. And here I can see these yellow boxes that have been drawn on the page. Now Equidox has automatically determined that this is the basic structure of the document. But what I can tell right away, is I have a couple of images, I have a table, I have a couple of lists, and I have some paragraphs up here as well as some headings.
So just to quickly walk through this document, I’m going to set my headings by using keyboard shortcuts. So this is a heading level one, this is a heading level two, this is a heading level two, and this is a heading level two. I’ve done that by just simply hitting the corresponding number on my keyboard. So a heading level one, I just hit one; heading level two, I hit two.
I have two paragraphs here which I don’t even have to touch because Equidox has done it for me. I have a couple of lists that I want to address.
Now lists are very simple to work within Equidox. All I’m going to do is hit “L” on my keyboard to change the zone type to a list. And then I can use this List Detector slider tool. So I will move this slider from left to right, and it has determined that there are four list items in this list, and it has given me these divider lines. Automatically created just by using its auto-detection technology.
Now, this is a slightly more complicated list because there are list items inside of list items, or there’s a list inside of a list item rather. So this is called a nested list. So what I will do here again is just hit “L” on my keyboard, and I will move this Detection slider over a bit further, and let Equidox work its magic. And it has determined that there is a list with an internal list inside of them, and it has detected that automatically.
Just for comparison’s sake if you were doing this manually, you could easily spend five to ten minutes just tinkering with a list like this. It’s very tedious and technical and slow. And you can see in Equidox it just takes fractions of a second.
Down here I have a table, which as it currently sits, is not structured as a table. This is just a series of text zones. So a screen reader would just read this straight across left to right, and it would be very complicated for an end-user to be able to understand the structure of the table which they are currently in. So this is, in fact, not a table at all. So what I’ll do is I will draw a zone over the entire table. I will hit “T” on my keyboard to change the zone type to a table, and I can now open up the Table Editor.
And once I’ve done that, I’m isolating the table. And I can just use these Table Detection sliders here which are using computer vision and machine learning. And I’ve now determined that the column or the columns and the rows are now located in the proper location. I can see these different green divider lines. So I’m happy with that structure. I can save it and close out.
Now the only other elements on this page are the images, which I can add an alt description for. So I can type in “Onix logo” and up here we have the Equidox logo as well. So I’m just adding in a description for those images. It’s just part of compliance. Making sure that we have a description for them.
I’ve now saved my page. I will close out of the document and I will return to the Output Tab. And I’m going to export this as a PDF document. So I just have the PDF tab already selected for me. And I hit Generate PDF, and this will produce a brand-new PDF document for me that will open up in my browser, which I can then download and send to whichever storage tool you use. Send it back to your content management system, whatever it may be. This is your brand-new document. But this is now an accessible version of that document. So that’s just a quick crash course through Equidox.
If you’re interested in talking about that more and kind of looking at documents that are more relevant to your organization, please let us know. I do tons of Equidox demos. Some of you may have already been on one. If you have not please let us know. I’m more than happy to chat with you. So we can talk more about documents that relate to your organization.
But with that said, it is just past 2:30. So thank you everyone for attending. Again, we can be reached at EquidoxSales@Onixnet.com and our website is www.Equidox.co. We’re also very active on LinkedIn and social media so please follow us on all of our accounts there. So thank you everyone for attending and have a great rest of your day!
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Tammy Albee | Content Marketer | Onix Tammy joined Onix after four years 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."