PDF Remediation for the Finance Industry

Financial document that needs PDF remediation

Financial institutions like banks, investment companies, financial services, and accounting firms provide a secure place for customers and investors to maintain and grow their financial assets. Customers now expect to monitor their assets online through a website or app, often in the form of PDF documents. Saving financial documents as PDFs makes them easier to produce securely and consistently. However, PDFs are often inaccessible to people using assistive technology. With over 25% of the population having some disability, digital accessibility is vital to the success of both your clients and your business, but as many as 58% of banks fail to meet minimum digital accessibility requirements. Clients and employees who use devices like screen readers or refreshable Braille displays may be unable to access necessary financial documents. PDF remediation can solve that problem. 

PDF documents that need to be accessible

  • Monthly bank statements
  • Investment growth reports
  • Fund descriptions
  • Portfolio Insights
  • Earnings reports
  • Transaction history
  • Informational brochures about types of accounts

What laws apply?

The Supreme Court has shown its support for lower, circuit courts who have ruled that public-facing websites are places of public accommodation.  The ADA covers even digital places of public accommodation, especially when they have a nexus to a physical location. That means any bank or financial institution that is open to everyone must make sure that none of its offerings or services are exclusive to any one group of clients or prospective clients, including its websites, apps, and any files on those sites, or they will be in violation of the ADA. 

What standards should you meet to be ADA compliant?

Historically, the Department of Justice (DoJ) has left digital accessibility vague because accessibility will look different for each website depending on its content and structure. In 2023, however, the DoJ offered guidance on digital accessibility that stated organizations should follow Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to achieve compliance.  There has been a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for digital accessibility guidelines filled with the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), but there is no current legal deadline for these guidelines to be released.  As the DoJ recommends, WCAG provides the most comprehensive standards for ensuring an accessible website. WCAG is considered to be the international industry standard, though it’s not officially part of ADA regulations. Many U.S. Circuit Courts as well as countries outside of the U.S. refer to WCAG guidelines to evaluate website accessibility.

What happens if your digital content isn’t ADA compliant?

Your clients and employees- as many as 25% of them- won’t be able to access important financial documents. There’s a chance their frustration will lead to legal action against your company, as it has for many others.  Legal risks are a major issue- they cost a lot of money. 

Whether you’ve lost a client or are facing a lawsuit, inaccessible PDF documents will cost your company reduced income and increased expense, as well as reputational damage. Completing PDF remediation to make those documents accessible can save your company time and money.

Past Cases

In 2022 alone, more than 4000 digital accessibility lawsuits were filed, and many were against financial institutions whose clients couldn’t access their financial information. 

Aldworth v TD Ameritrade, Inc.

Elizabeth Aldworth is a resident of New York who is blind. She opened an investment account with Scottrade in 2008 and had no trouble accessing her account information digitally. A year later, TD Ameritrade purchased Scottrade. Aldworth attempted to log in to the new platform and discovered that her Roth account information was no longer accessible with her assistive technology. A number of features, including drop-down menus, form fields, and even the fine print were inaccessible. She filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of investors who are blind. Aldworth and Ameritrade were able to reach a settlement, but Ameritrade also agreed to pay to remediate their website, pay Aldworth’s court costs and legal fees, as well as punitive damages.

Rizzi v Morgan Stanley

Morgan Stanley faced similar litigation from Albert Rizzi, a New York nonprofit owner who is also blind. Rizzi had multiple accounts with Morgan Stanley and was unable to access his account information through their website. Their website was not built to be compatible with Rizzi’s assistive technology. The website also fails to mention a policy by which site visitors can report accessibility errors.  He asked the company on several occasions to fix the inaccessible elements of the website but received no response. 

Meanwhile, Rizzi had to rely on others to read him his financial statements, leaving his personal information vulnerable to theft. “I am still struggling to read the statements from my brokerage account, and am often left to rely on sighted assistance, which can expose me to identity theft or worse,” Mr. Rizzi said. Recently, his personal financial information was compromised. “There is significant room for improvement across the board, and I have yet to, personally or professionally, find that one institution that has it right.”

Rizzi even offered to help Morgan Stanley identify and solve the accessibility issues because his nonprofit specializes in those services. When they failed to respond, Rizzi filed a lawsuit for $9 million in damages. Morgan Stanley settled the case.

Gonoude v Morgan Stanley

Georgann Gonoude also filed a lawsuit against Morgan Stanley in opposition to its inaccessible website. Gonoulde was unable to access her financial information digitally. She also requested that her advisor withdraw some of her investment funds to pay on a personal loan.  She didn’t know that her investment banker hadn’t withdrawn that money because she was unable to access her account information. This caused an unnecessary increase in charges on the unpaid loan. The damage done by this whole ordeal went beyond the added expenses. In addition, the suit claims that having to turn to others to access her accounts made Gonoude feel like an “incapable, dependent, disabled individual, which is exactly what she has promised herself she would not be since she lost her eyesight, causing her emotional distress, anxiety and pain,” according to FundFire.

PDF remediation helps prevent litigation

Making templated, high-volume documents like monthly bank statements or investment growth reports accessible is especially important because clients need to be able to quickly and efficiently access their financial information.  Companies can now make these PDFs accessible quickly and easily using an automated remediation solution like Equidox AI. Using the company’s unique documents, Equidox trains the AI model to identify components on the page and recognize the varying data to automatically tag documents with no human intervention. 

Other financial documents like flyers, product brochures, and other individually produced PDFs also should be accessible. Equidox software makes it easy with quick, automated Smart Detection Tools.

Schedule a call with our Experts to see how Equidox AI can solve your high-volume PDF accessibility challenges.



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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.”