Accessibility for Texas’ Region 10 Educational Service Center (ESC) is about more than just “checking a box.” The ESC believes every single student and faculty member in Region 10 deserves equal access to information. The Center helps schools make their information accessible by offering training, technology, and other resources. This is no small task, as they serve hundreds of thousands of students and faculty in their 130-district area. To make PDFs accessible on their website to be utilized by those schools in their vast service area, the ESC’s Web Accessibility Specialist uses and recommends Equidox.
Responding to an OCR complaint
When Shayne Warner was hired as the Web Accessibility Specialist at Region 10 ESC, she was tasked with helping the Website Administrator, Denise Barker, make their website and digital files accessible in response to a complaint filed with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) against the previous website and online learning content management system.
Warner explained, “We worked very diligently to get our website in compliance, and in May of last year we were able to close that case with the OCR. Our website is large (over 2500 pages) and integrates with other applications which also had to be compliant. We service thousands – hundreds of thousands – of students, teachers, and administrators, so you can imagine how many PDFs we have on our website.”
Slow tools make PDF accessibility difficult
Shayne and Denise started out using Adobe to remediate PDFs and quickly discovered that Adobe was not the most efficient solution for making PDFs accessible. Because they have been asked to advise on digital accessibility initiatives for some of these schools located in ten Texas counties, they quickly realized that they needed a dedicated PDF remediation tool that was faster and more efficient than Adobe.
“When I was first hired, all I had was Adobe. It was not unusual for me to take hours to finish maybe ten pages. What I found most frustrating about Adobe was that I would make a change that sometimes caused other errors to pop-up, then I would have to start over. Just very difficult to use.” She says, “But the most difficult remediation tasks were tables, for sure… tables and lists.”
Finding an easier solution
Mrs. Barker and Mrs. Warner began looking for an easier software solution to make PDFs accessible for the ESC’s website and for schools in their service area. They found Equidox PDF Accessibility Solutions. Equidox uses AI-powered Smart Detection Tools to make PDF remediation fast and easy. Equidox users simply identify elements on the page such as tables, lists, text, and images, by drawing “zones” around them. Then, Equidox applies the corresponding tags when the document is exported so assistive technology users can receive that information. The Smart Detection Tools give the user a starting point that identifies most elements on the page. Users then adjust the zones as necessary to make sure elements are correctly identified.
“We barely use Adobe any more for anything other than the final check. We remediate documents in Equidox, export them, and run them through the Adobe checker. We tell people that buying Equidox is a no-brainer if they do difficult PDFs. We tell them how amazed we are at the artificial intelligence that goes into it – it just figures things out for you. Denise, our Web Administrator, says ‘It’s one of the best products I have ever worked with.’”
Most useful features
PDF elements like tables and lists took the most time to remediate in Adobe because they usually had to be manually tagged. That’s why the Equidox automated Table Editor was such a game changer for Denise and Shayne.
“The Equidox Table Editor is the tool that impressed me the most. It’s amazing. It’s so easy, it automatically finds the rows and columns for you. You can easily set the headers; it just takes a few clicks. In Adobe, I sometimes had to set every single cell individually.”
“Equidox is also easier because of lists, for sure. I just taught a class recently and because some of the schools don’t have Equidox, I had to show them how to fix a few items in Adobe. I told them that I left out the list tagging because it’s so difficult to do in Adobe. In Equidox, it’s just a couple of clicks.”
Easier remediation projects
Now that they have successfully updated the website and made it accessible, Denise and Shayne continue to make all new files accessible. They also help schools in their service area find the tools, training, and resources they need to make their websites and digital resources accessible.
Region 10 staff use Equidox to remediate every kind of PDF from legal notices to slideshow presentations. Recently, using Equidox helped Shayne make a complicated financial report accessible.
“I just helped our business office finish their financial reports from last year. It was a 135-page financial report, and almost every single page – probably 70% of it – had multiple, huge tables. Equidox was such a time saver. Before, the Business Office staff had to spend time reformatting the tables in Excel before I could use Adobe. Now I just said, ‘I’ll get it done for you in Equidox must faster and you don’t need to reformat it.’ I was able to handle the project myself without having to take up our staff’s time with reformatting.”
Region 10 Recommends Equidox
When the schools in ESC’s service area come to them for accessibility suggestions and support, the Web Services Team recommends that they make their digital resources accessible from the beginning and use Equidox. They also need to make accessibility an achievable goal. When tools are too hard and time consuming to use, schools can’t complete their projects. It leaves them vulnerable to complaints and lawsuits. More importantly, their students and staff can’t get what they need.
Because Warner has had so much success with Equidox, she has started recommending it to all the schools in their service area and to other ESCs.
“For schools that don’t have an accessibility specialist and just have content creators using Adobe, I have no idea how they remediate PDFs in a timely manner. Several of our schools have OCR cases that have either been resolved or are ongoing right now. That’s why they come to us for advice, and we tell them, ‘Just get Equidox. It will make your life a lot easier.’”
“In addition, we mention Equidox in all of our training for our school districts. We teach them about accessibility, what to look for, how to fix their slides, presentations, and other things. We mention our vendors, including Equidox, because we use Equidox as well. We have at least 6 or 7 licenses here at the Service Center.”
PDF Accessibility – because it matters
Mrs. Warner shares, “In our classes we teach the theory behind accessibility and why you have to remediate a certain way. We don’t do accessibility remediation just because it’s required; we do it because we know about 20% of the population has some sort of disability, and because it’s the right thing to do.”