September 13, 2019

Implementing a successful Document Accessibility strategy in the EU

Jane Black | Channel Manager, Document Accessibility
computer monitor in digital world

As businesses and organizations move more of their customer interactions online, web accessibility is now reaching the top of the enterprise priority list in Europe. Ensuring equal access for disabled users to websites and other important customer communications, is being driven not only by recent changes in EU legislation, but also by the size and strength of the market itself – some $6 trillion of disabled spending power globally. In Europe, 30 million people currently live with blindness or a visual impairment and approximately 80 million with a disability. With these figures set to triple by 2050 and new EU Accessibility legislation taking effect in the coming months, businesses that have a comprehensive digital accessibility strategy in place will be sure to see the greatest success.

Up until now most businesses in the EU have provided important customer communications to their disabled customers in a traditional (physical) alternate format, such as braille, large print or audio. But with this shift towards the digital delivery of documents, by email or through ePresentment channels, these communications must now be provided in an accessible digital format too. The most common formats are Accessible PDF, with its variants PDF/UA and WCAG 2.0 AA Accessible PDF and Accessible HTML. The tags, metadata and special instructions contained within these formats, allow disabled people, using Assistive Technologies such as screen readers, braille displays and other accessible devices, to navigate and read this digital content.

For large companies and organizations who are creating, delivering and storing millions of customer communications on a daily basis, how and where to implement accessibility within their existing workflow is often the area where they need the most help. Some of the most common questions that we are typically asked by enterprises at the start of their accessibility journey are: What document types do we need to, or should we consider, making accessible? Should we build accessibility in to our workflow at the document composition stage or post-composition? Do we need to store all accessible communications within our enterprise archive or should we only provide them when documents are being retrieved? And do we only need to make our customer communications accessible from today onwards or should we consider making legacy documents accessible too?

In truth there are often no right or wrong answers to these questions, as much will depend on other important factors such as existing business processes, infrastructure constraints, internal resources and legal considerations.  The key to building a successful document accessibility strategy is, in fact, quite simple. First, ensure that you involve all internal stakeholders at the beginning of the process, including your accessibility, customer experience, IT, document composition and content services teams, as each will bring important perspectives to the table. And secondly, find a trusted partner! If you can work with an organization that has not only a deep understanding of accessibility, but a comprehensive range of solutions, technical skills and experience to guide you through the process, then a successful outcome will almost certainly be guaranteed.

For answers to some of the questions listed above take a look at one of our recent whitepapers; Accessible Documents Pre and Post Composition Workflow Considerations. Or if you’d like some help with your digital accessibility strategy why not get in touch with one of our experienced accessibility consultants today.