August 12, 2015

Implementing Document Accessibility: Tips on How to Get Started

Are you looking to provide your clients with accessible documents but you’re not sure where to start? Here are some first steps to get things going.

You’ll probably want to begin by taking an inventory of the kinds of documents your organization provides. Do your customers receive monthly statements and bills, forms or letters? Take a look at your volumes. Which of these documents are produced most frequently? This can help you determine which document types to focus on first.

In the field of customer communications, accessibility is not about wheelchair ramps and elevators. It’s about equal access to information. However, when it comes to personal and confidential data, privacy is also an important factor to keep in mind. Customers who can’t access their credit card statements, for example, would have to rely on others to convey and verify the information.

So let’s say you’re going to start by making your monthly statements available in accessible formats. Which formats should you offer? What does your organization need to do in order to comply with legislation? What will meet the needs of your clients? What is the format of the originals (e.g. AFP or PDF)?

There are a lot of factors involved, but here are a few things to consider:

• Large print is currently the most widely-requested accessible format.

• Braille is the only format that allows blind customers to read a hard copy version of their documents

• PDF documents are accessible, but only if they conform to a standard such as WCAG 2.0 Level AA or PDF/UA (Universal Accessibility) ISO 14289-01:2012

• PDF/UA is an emerging format that can allow your organization to reach be in compliance across the board

• If a document is accessible, but the web site from which it is downloaded is not, than compliance has not been achieved.

• Text-to-speech screen readers, braille displays and smart phones enable customers to read accessible electronic documents in a variety of ways.

• Requests for all accessible formats are on the rise.

Once you’ve made customer communications available in accessible formats, you’ll need to put a process in place so that clients can request them. It goes without saying that this process must also be accessible. In other words, a printed form that has to be completed by hand would not be appropriate. Finally, you’ll need to be sure that your staff (call centre agents, tellers, financial advisors etc.) are aware of this service and can help your clients obtain documents in the accessible format of their choice.

For more information on transactional document solutions register for our educational workshop that we are hosting at GRAPH EXPO.