You might be surprised at how many reports, meeting minutes, brochures, manuals, and other documents live on your website as PDF files. They all have to be accessible. If your organization lacks the time or resources available to make your PDFs accessible in-house, you can always hire an outside company to help remediate documents for you. Choosing the right PDF remediation company will include comparing PDF remediation pricing. There are, however, other factors to consider.
Most companies don’t publish their PDF remediation pricing because so many different factors go into those prices. Each document is different. Depending on the document’s complexity, the number of pages, and turnaround time, the actual cost per page can vary widely from project to project. The overall volume of documents can play a part as well.
PDF remediation pricing will also differ from company to company. You will find variations in their software remediation tools, manpower, and validation methods. These, combined with variations in the complexity of the documents themselves, mean that no two companies will have the same PDF conversion pricing.
Budgeting for a remediation project and knowing if you’re getting a good deal means evaluating the companies providing you with quotes. Consider the following factors when choosing a vendor to make your PDFs accessible.
What goes into PDF remediation pricing?
Remediators use a number of different PDF accessibility tools, some of which are more time-consuming than others. Some tools require more human manipulation to correctly tag elements. The software used by the remediators to whom you’ve outsourced the project can contribute to the length of time it takes to complete the project, which in turn contributes to the price.
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, if no one has verified the document has actually been remediated correctly the whole document will be non-compliant. Validation can easily take longer than remediating the document in the first place, especially if it’s done correctly. More time usually means more money.
To save time and money, many companies useautomated accessibility checkers. These can whip through documents and catch coding issues that can cause documents to be inaccessible. While automated checkers provide a great starting point towards accessibility validation, they can only catch 20%-30% of PDF accessibility issues. Only human validators can catch context issues. That will include things like correct reading order and the relevance of the alternative text descriptions for images. It takes a real person using a screen reader while following along with the actual PDF. This is the best way to make sure what’s being read by the screen reader is presented in the correct reading order and makes sense in the context of the PDF version.
Although accessibility checkers will catch a number of accessibility errors, passing an automated accessibility checker may have 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.
Non-urgent projects that can be completed in phases are often significantly less expensive to have remediated. Rushed projects often mean the company has to divert remediators away from other projects, bring in outside help, or require overtime to complete the project. All of those things add to PDF remediation pricing.
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 PDF accessibility. You may have a number of outdated or irrelevant documents that you can remove from the website altogether. Remediate other seldomly used documents last, or remove them temporarily until after remediation.
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 documents, such as when a document is saved as a PDF (as opposed to scanned into a computer), and that have embedded text and fonts, are often 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 easily understandable and explainable graphics 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), graphics that requires human interpretation and understanding. These can also contain nested lists, non-uniform tables, links, footnotes, or elements that require flattening or removal of some interactive element.
Hi-Complexity documents include those which were not created digitally but were instead scanned into the computer. 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 and other non-embedded text.
Scanned documents can be particularly challenging. The contents must have Optical Character Recognition (OCR) tools used on them in order to recognize the text elements so they can be tagged. That can mean a lot of manual checking to ensure the content has been correctly OCR’d, all before any tagging can take place.
High-Complexity documents also include complicated 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, but the technology to remediate them has come a long way. Each interactive form element requires multiple tags to make it both fillable and usable by a screen reader user.
You Get What You Pay For
Companies that advertise one flat (particularly low) rate for PDF remediation without evaluating your documents are sometimes too good to be true. That can mean that instead of individually identifying and tagging each element on the document page, they’re just drawing one giant tag around everything on the page. A screen reader would have no idea that there’s a list, table, chart, or image, or may read a page containing columns straight across. This wouldn’t make any sense to the user.
It could also include “artifacting” everything to hide the content from screen readers and automated checkers, but leaving a document completely unusable. Very low PDF remediation pricing could also mean that the company isn’t spending much time on the job. They may be skimping on either the remediating or validating side of things.
Obtain samples of work and test them using actual screen readers to be sure the documents you will be getting back actually still convey the information correctly, and don’t only “pass the checkers.”
How do I know if I’m getting a good value?
You’ll probably be asked to submit some sample documents so the PDF accessibility company can evaluate them using their own complexity criteria.
Here are some important questions to ask in order to evaluate whether the PDF remediation pricing you’re quoted is a good deal:
- 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 volume discount?
While you want a responsive company, one 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 a risk of litigation.
- What is your validation process?
- Which screen reading technology do you use to validate?
- Describe the experience of your validators?
Remember, if it doesn’t 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 the correct experience using a screen reader, they might miss other errors as well.
- Be sure to check the work on any samples you send. You may want to use an outside tester to test the sample documents. 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. If you are part of a government agency or nonprofit, you may be entitled to special pricing in the form of a discount or pre-negotiated price. This is especially true if the company has a GSA schedule contract and you’re part of a government entity. Ask whether the company offers discounts for your particular industry or sector.
Ask if the company offers a bulk discount if you have a large number of documents for them to remediate.
If you have one standard document format that gets published regularly in high volumes, such as a bank statement or bill, ask about Equidox’s high volume solution. This solution creates a custom-built digital template specific to your documents. The remediation process can be largely automated, cutting down on the time and cost of each page.
Choose Your PDF Remediation Partner Carefully
Outsourcing PDF accessibility can save your company a lot of remediation time. It can ensure the project is done correctly if you use a PDF remediation service that is reliable, careful, and dedicated to usability. Ask questions to determine how thoroughly your documents will be remediated and validated. You don’t want to end up with files that still aren’t accessible. PDF remediation requires specialized knowledge and skill. Selecting the cheapest option can leave you with unusable files that you’ll need to remediate all over again. Know the complexity of your documents so you can choose an option that offers complete remediation and thorough, manual validation balanced with reasonable pricing.
To see how Equidox measures up for PDF remediation pricing and services, visit our professional PDF remediation services page.
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Nina comes to Onix 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.”