November 3, 2015

Accessible Document Transforms Versus Print Transforms

An Inside Look at Making High Speed, High Volume Accessible Transaction Documents into Accessible PDF

For those that are in the transaction print production space, you may already be familiar with Print Transforms in the Enterprise Output Environment. Enterprise output operations have needed to convert Print Description Languages (PDL) from one format to another such as AFP to PDF, and more so recently with archiving, ePresentment and eDelivery requirements.

Traditional print description transforms look for key elements in a print file such as font information, position, and document structure. For AFP, these can include fonts and the corresponding font information, No-Ops, and TLE’s. When converting or transforming print description languages there is usually a direct correlation in how one format is displayed to the other print description format.

However, this however is slightly different with Accessible PDFs. As regulations for accessible document delivery and compliance continue to grow and evolve, accessible PDF can be a straightforward way to provide accessible documents to your clients. In looking at the requirements for Accessible PDF, we once again see the need to convert from one print description language to accessible PDF.

For transaction documents, these documents are typically invoices and statements that generally can include personal and confidential client communications that are system generated. With Crawford Technologies’ industry leading transforms, we take the same architecture to read a print description language and convert a document to another format. However with accessible documents, such as PDF, this adds a new layer of complexity that a typical transform for regular PDL conversion never has had to account for.

Accessible documents are built around the need to be easily navigable. This means when an assistive technology is used, you can move or navigate to key areas of the page with device commands or key strokes rather than reading a document sequentially top to bottom or left to right. As a sighted reader, we read documents based on critical document landmarks such as “total due” or perhaps “Percentage gain in investment” rather than reading your address or a logo first or even reading all the granular details. This is why documents need to be tagged with metadata so that a Refreshable Braille Display, a screen reader like JAWS or NVDA can easily navigate a transaction document.

Now that we understand tags are added into an accessible PDF, we can see that a typical workflow for print transforms probably will not allow automated transformation. As such, human intervention is required to tag a document and to properly define what is a table, a header, a graph, an image or an artifact. When performing a print PDL transform, there is no consideration for document hierarchy. However when transforming and tagging a document for accessibility, human intervention is required to add critical information for key structural elements in a document. The reality is that when it comes to any type of accessible PDF documents, a person must tag or set up business rules for document content.

This rule holds true for remediating a single one-off document or to set up a configuration for variable transaction documents such as invoices, statements, forms or letters.

A trained individual who understands tagging in accessible formats is required. They will understand how to tag content or apply rules to structured content or formats. As such, when setting up a document into accessible format, this is the skill set that is required:

a) A person who understand accessibility tagging rules b) A person experienced in understanding desktop publishing or even document design c) A person who has done tagging – this does not have to be a programmer

Put simply, tagging for high speed, high volume remediation or for a simple one page letter takes time!

In a future blog post, we will provide more detail on what is involved with accessibility tagging, and offer some for assessing the relative complexity of different documents. We’ll also touch on the tools that we provide, and on other important considerations, such as what happens when a new invoice is generated, or your branding is changed.