July 29, 2015

Compliance Vs Accommodation in the Transaction Document Accessibility Space

Making All Your Client Communications Accessibility Compliant

The document accessibility space is heating up. With new regulations, rules, litigation and a call to make documents accessible, how can organizations meet regulations to provide accessible documents and transaction information back to their clients? We’ll discuss making transaction documents for the blind, partially sighted or those with cognitive disabilities. These documents are typically personalized invoices, statements, and personal and confidential correspondence accessible and compliant to accessibility regulations.

Typically, many progressive organizations have provided accommodation documents to their clients. Accommodation documents are essentially a physical alternate format document produced as Braille, Large Font, eText or Audio to a client that is requesting them. This process typically starts with a printed invoice or statement being manually transcribed into Braille, Large Font, eText or Audio formats. This typically took days to transcribe beyond the release of the original printed document. As such documents such as a credit card statement quickly became past due. This later grew into a hybrid accommodation process where print or print description files could be automated into alternate formats requiring each alternate format type to be transcribed and set up. This process was generally costly and ultimately did not solve the need for full compliance.

With organizations generating millions of invoices annually or even monthly, and the need to be compliant, this was not the optimum solution. Today, we see accommodation requests account for 3-4% of the total requests for accessible documents. Many blind, partially sighted or cognitive disabled individuals don’t ask for an accommodation document or they do not know it’s available. For that matter, if they were asked, they generally don’t want to disclose to their service providers that they have a disability.

What is an organization to do? With so many people losing vision to common diseases such as diabetes or macular degeneration and the need to store these documents for record keeping, the thought now to ensure compliance is to create all client facing documents into an accessible formats – specifically Accessible PDF. This reduces the customer service’s needs to manage a client’s accessible document preference by asking or waiting for clients to advise what accommodation they would need. This is similar to accessible web sites – make all web sites that an organization delivers, delivered as an accessible website.

With the proliferation of internet connected devices – PC’s, Macs, tablets, and smartphones, a company can be quickly be compliant to accessibility regulations by supplying accessible PDFs for access electronically via an accessible portal. An Accessible PDF provides a means to access content either through screen reader software (JAWS, NVDA etc.) or connected hardware such as a refreshable Braille display. With the use of software that can automate the transcription of statements, statements can be generated with accessible tags at the same time a typical PDF is created. This eliminates any costly human, manual intervention while allowing organizations to publish the accessible PDF into a portal for immediate consumption.

At Crawford Technologies, we are delivering an accessible PDF transform both through our service bureau and as licensed software. This solution allows us to take print files generated from billing or client information systems and convert them into accessible PDF. Today the majority of telecoms, banks, insurers, wealth, utilities and billers generate invoices or statements to mail. The majority produce these statements in PDF, AFP or Xerox Metacode to name a few formats. As these documents are highly structured, we can apply business rules to place accessible tags to deal with headers, tables, graphics, artifacts and paragraphs and convert the print file into a PDF or more importantly, an accessible PDF that either a sighted person can use (looks the same as a regular PDF) or a person with accessible needs can consume.

For the consumer that needs to receive and pay their credit card statement or their wireless bill on-time, the delay to wait for a physical document is virtually eliminated and late fees and the need to contact customer service is reduced. But, what about those individuals that do not use technology and want to have traditional Braille, Large Font, electronic text or Audio? Well there is answer for that as well.

With our solution, Accessible PDFs can be transformed into alternate document formats such as Braille, Large Font, electronic text or Audio without costly set up or manual transcription into each format for each document or for that matter even more costly manual transcription. Our solution allows us to set up an Accessible PDF for easy transformation into traditional Braille, Large Font, electronic text or Audio. Additionally, for paper based compliance we are also providing 2D barcode enabled solutions. These solutions allow a paper based transaction statement to be made accessible by laying down a small 2 Dimensional barcode. The barcode when scanned with the no-charge application allows the user to have the contents of the page read back to them by voice over, Large Print to screen and in Braille when enabled with a refreshable Braille display.

With our solutions, what used to be days of manual transcription for a few pages and mailing turn into thousands of pages per second for on-line presentment with accessibility for all. Crawford Technologies’ PRO Transform Plus PDF/UA and our PRO Designer graphical interface provides both a cost effective compliance solution (AODA, Section 508/WCAG 2.0 Level AA and PDF/UA) and an accommodation solution for your company to meet your compliance and service requirements.

Join our Documnet Accessibility experts at GRAPH EXPO for a complimentary workshop. In this interactive workshop, we will outline and show you traditional alternate formats such as Braille, Large Print, eText, Audio and DAISY and discuss how you can offer these formats as a value added service to your clients. We’ll demonstrate how to tag documents to create accessible PDFs for use with Assistive Technologies such as JAWS and NVDA and demonstrate how documents can be consumed using a screen reader. We’ll provide a hands-on demonstration on how documents can be converted into alternate formats using a one-step transformation - providing cost savings and maximum flexibility.