One of the more time-consuming aspects of website accessibility is PDF remediation. Many PDF files are not accessible to assistive technology users because their content is not digitally tagged. If you’ve got the time and manpower, you can purchase software to help you correctly tag PDFs yourself (Equidox has a fast and easy-to-use option!) to make them more accessible. But if you don’t have the time or resources available to make your PDFs accessible in-house, you can always hire an outside company to remediate some or all of the documents for you. Choosing the right PDF remediation company usually includes comparing prices, but PDF conversion pricing can be a complex subject to parse.
It can be difficult to budget for a PDF remediation project because most companies don’t publish their PDF remediation prices. There is no one-button fix, and almost every company has a different way of remediating documents. There are a number of variables to consider. Variations in software, manpower, and validation methods, combined with variations in the complexity of the documents themselves, mean that no two companies will have the same PDF remediation pricing.
What goes into PDF remediation pricing?
PDF Remediation software
Remediators use many different types of software, some of which are more time-consuming than others or require more human manipulation to correctly tag elements. The software used by the remediators to whom you’ve outsourced the project can contribute to remediation time, which impacts pricing as well.
This one is by far the most important element of the remediation project. It’s easy to tag a few elements on a page and say the document is accessible. But in order to make sure the end-user can use them, a screen reader must manually validate the documents. Validation can easily take longer than remediating the document in the first place, especially if the company validates manually and correctly. More time usually means more money.
To save time and money, many companies use automated accessibility checkers which can quickly catch inaccessible coding issues. However, those checkers can only catch 20%-30% of accessibility issues. Items such as context issues, correct reading order, and alternative text descriptions for images can’t be verified by any non-human checkers. It takes a real person using a screen reader to verify the reading order and context of the remediated document.
Accessibility checkers can catch a number of accessibility errors. But passing an automated accessibility checker has little bearing on whether a real human being can actually use the document. This can make the difference between whether or not that assistive technology user purchases your products or services, visits your physical location, or otherwise is able to benefit from the information you are trying to provide. Your entire website can be considered inaccessible if it includes inaccessible PDFs, which puts you at risk for web accessibility litigation.
Non-urgent Projects that aren’t an emergency and can be completed piece-by-piece over time are often significantly less expensive to have remediated. Rushed projects often mean having to pull remediators off of other projects, bring in outside help, or require overtime to complete the project. All of those things add to the price.
Be sure to start your remediation project as soon as possible. Consider having a consultant evaluate your website to see exactly how many PDFs you have and make recommendations on how to prioritize their conversion. You may have a number of outdated, irrelevant documents that you can remove from the website altogether. Remediate other seldomly used documents last or remove them temporarily until you remediate them.
Different document elements can be more or less time-consuming for remediators, which in turn can add to the price. Documents containing multi-level lists, complicated tables, and detailed infographics and charts can take time to correctly remediate.
Also, the more complicated the document, the higher the risk for error while remediating. Errors take time to identify, correct, and revalidate, adding cost to the process.
Digitally created PDFs that have embedded text and fonts are usually the easiest to remediate. PDFs with an intuitive, structured reading order and simple non-text elements such as single-level lists, small, uniform tables, and decorative graphics which are easy to understand and explain using text alternatives make a document lower in complexity.
Mid-complexity documents include many non-text items, non-linear reading order (think of a busy page in a digital magazine) that requires human interpretation and understanding, nested lists, non-uniform tables, links, footnotes, or elements that require flattening or removal of some interactive element.
Hi-Complexity documents include scanned documents not created digitally. Text is not embedded because the computer reads the document as an image, not a text document. This might include handwritten text and documents intended for printing and folding.
Scanned documents can be particularly challenging. They require Optical Character Recognition (OCR) tools in order to identify text and tag elements. OCR requires a lot of manual checking to verify accuracy before any tagging can take place.
High-Complexity documents also include complicated non-text items such as multi-page tables, nested lists with four or more levels of nesting, infographics requiring long-form descriptions, or interactive elements.
Forms are by far the most difficult and time-consuming documents to remediate. For each form element, the remediator must create multiple tags and a specific structure to make the form both fillable and usable by a screen reader. Fillable forms include interactive documents and other interactive PDF elements such as buttons.
You Get What You Pay For
Companies that advertise one flat (particularly low) price for PDF remediation are sometimes too good to be true. That can mean instead of identifying and tagging each element on the page, they’re just drawing one giant tag around everything. A screen reader would have no idea what the page actually contains, leaving it unusable. It could also include “artifacting” everything to hide the content from screen readers and automated checkers. Artifacted zones pass checkers but leave a document completely unusable.
Very low prices also mean that the company isn’t spending much time on the job. They’re likely skimping on either the remediating or validating side of things. Ask for samples of their work and test them using actual screen readers. Ensure they’re usable and not just “passing the checkers.”
How do I know if I’m getting a good value?
The PDF remediation company will probably ask you to submit some sample documents so they can evaluate their complexity using their own criteria.
Here are some important questions to ask when evaluating PDF remediation pricing:
- What software do you use?
- What is your turnaround time?
- How are my documents handled – how do I submit them and how are they returned?
- What is your pricing for low, medium, and high complexity? What about forms?
- Is there a quantity discount?
While you want a responsive company, a company that promises you documents within hours is probably not taking the time to properly remediate, let alone validate, your documents. This might meet your deadline, but if the documents received still aren’t accessible there’s no point in even starting the project.
- What is your validation process?
- What screen reading technology do you use to validate?
- What is the experience of your validators?
Validation must include a real screen reader user ensuring the document is actually usable. Automated checkers will only catch up to 20%-30% of accessibility errors. If the validator doesn’t have screen reader experience, they will also miss other accessibility issues.
- Be sure to check the work on any samples you send. You need to know you are getting what you pay for: an accessible, usable document.
Exceptions and special circumstances
You may be able to skip the process of requesting a quote for the PDF remediation pricing. Government agencies may be entitled to special pricing in the form of a discount or pre-negotiated price if the company has a GSA schedule contract (Equidox does!). Sometimes nonprofits also receive special reduced pricing. Ask if there are discounts offered for your particular industry or sector.
If you have a PDF remediation project with lots of pages, ask if the company offers a bulk discount.
If you have one standard document that gets published regularly, such as a bank statement or bill, ask about Equidox’s high volume solutions, where a template is built to your document specifications. Documents are carefully validated during the custom template-building process, so the remediation process can e largely automated. Custom automated technology can reduce the time and cost of the project.
Choose Your Accessibility Partner Carefully
Outsourcing PDF accessibility can save your company time and ensure the project is done correctly if you use a reliable company dedicated to usability. Ask questions to determine how thoroughly they will remediate and validate your documents.
PDF remediation requires specialized knowledge. Simply choosing the cheapest option can leave you with unusable documents need to be remediated all over again. Know the complexity of your documents so you can choose an option that offers complete remediation and thorough, manual validation.
To see how Equidox measures up for PDF conversion pricing and services, visit our professional PDF Conversion page. How much will your project cost? Contact us!