The phrase ”All customer situations are unique” is very true when discussing how organizations implement accessibility for customer-facing documents. Crawford Technologies has been developing enterprise scale document accessibility solutions for over 10 years, and has worked closely with customers to implement these solutions. My conclusion is that no two are alike.
One issue that underscores these differences is whether or not to implement an opt-in model so that only people specifically requesting accessible documents are presented with accessible versions. I am going to highlight 3 unique situations, describe why an opt-in model was chosen, and discuss whether or not this approach had the desired impact.
Use Case 1: Major Retail Bank
This bank implemented accessible statements in a dynamic fashion, meaning that they store the statements in the original format, and then transform them on-demand to Accessible PDF. They decided to phase in document accessibility by creating a special opt-in process, a clickable link on both the internal intranet and external internet that would dynamically generate the accessible document.
The concern was that creating accessible statements for all customers would have resulted in an overall performance overhead increase, when only a small fraction of users, 3-5% by their estimate, actually required accessible statements.
Once the solution was implemented, their users receive back an Accessible PDF file in less than one second after submitting the request. Internal transformation times have been sub-500ms for virtually all retrievals, even those that result in 15 to 20 page statements.
It’s difficult to determine if this bank saved anything by not simply opening up accessible documents to their entire population of users. The solution runs on 2 production servers in a virtual environment, which would have been needed anyway for a tier-1 application. The bank created templates to address all possible statement types a user would wish to retrieve, so template setup work would have been the same with either approach, meaning that no time or effort was saved by having users opt-in.
Although the process is working, and there is no legal or business reason to change it, the question the bank is currently researching is whether or not the existing infrastructure would support turning on accessible statements for all, thus eliminating the additional step for the user to select an accessible statement.
Use Case 2: Large Financial Services and Insurance Firm
This firm started providing accessible documents by accommodation. Their customer population is predominantly U.S. military, so there is a somewhat higher than normal percentage of people requiring accessible content. CrawfordTech has been providing opt-in braille and large print services to this organization through our secure facility for document accessibility services.
In this case, implementing electronic opt-in for Accessible PDF was a logical extension of the services and formats they were already providing. The company was able to simply map existing user profiles over to Accessible PDF delivery. Batch print files were then submitted to the CrawfordTech software, which processed only the files containing statements already requested as accessible.
Because creating accessible PDF was an off-shoot of the existing process of creating braille and large print, extending this to accessible PDF was a natural progression, and opt-in makes sense.
Use Case 3: Health Insurance Company
This health payer organization was under pressure to provide accessible communications to members due to the Section 508 Refresh and anti-discrimination provisions in the Affordable Care Act. They set up roughly 5 templates for the various Explanation of Benefits (EOB’s) they provided to several lines of business as well as 2 templates for other communications. When a user requests an accessible communications through a web portal, the document requested is pulled from a mainframe-based repository, and a CrawfordTech application is called which applies the appropriate template to the document, transforming that document to Accessible PDF or Accessible HTML5 and returning it back through the portal.
Since not all lines of business were equally impacted by the accessibility mandates, this organization felt that enabling opt-in through a web portal via a radio button was the best approach. Although the implementation was successful, in hindsight they felt that the design of the web portal could be improved to ensure a positive customer experience.
There are clearly sound reasons to present accessible communications only upon request. Of course it’s always important to be in compliance and to preserve customers’ right to privacy and eliminate barriers to access. However, it’s also vital that the entire customer experience be looked at when planning and implementing an effective document accessibility strategy.
We’ll be at M-Enabling next week, so if you’re planning to attend, stop by at booth #2 to learn more.