When I entered the world of document accessibility in January 2020, I truly had no idea what it meant. Shame on me. Being in the business world for 35 years I focused on revenue, people development and the bottom line. I have always believed in equality and access to information should be made available to all. But I didn’t really acknowledge what equality to all meant. In a few short days on the job, I recognized that the time is now to get educated in the world of document accessibility and assist people with print disabilities.
So what did I learn?
Accessibility is about everyone being able to live as independent a life as possible, not just the textbook definition of being the degree to which a product, device, service, or environment is available to as many people as possible. One thing people forget constantly is that life can turn on a dime, and if we aren’t proactive about implementing accessibility with our environment and communications, we’re faced with a brick wall at every turn.
A facet of digital accessibility lies the document which at times is overlooked or last to be addressed. By now we have all heard of the laws associated with making documents accessible and growing focus to address this issue is inevitable. The problem is authors and organizations believe it is an all or nothing approach that is way too costly and not budgeted. This is not the case. If a company were to be sued, the cost of litigation and settlement would far exceed the cost of a document accessibility strategy. Every organization needs a sustainable document accessibility strategy.
So, what is a document accessibility strategy? It is a plan where you draw a line in the sand as to what documents need to be made accessible (remediated) now. Documents that are most commonly visited/downloaded or required to be viewed by the most readers. Focussing on a go forward strategy which means, how are you going to get documents from creation to be accessible? There are 3 ways:
- Develop an internal approach for making documents accessible from creation. Software and training to teach people how.
- Have documents that are posted on your website by other authors remediated by an outside firm specializing in how to make a document accessible.
- A combination of both internal and external remediation. Keep simple documents inhouse and more complex documents outsourced.
Continuing to think that documents will be magically made accessible or this need will go away results in further costs down the road, and recognize like I have, anything can happen in the blink of an eye, and we all deserve to live in a barrier free world.