Government Document Remediation - ways to repair PDF documents and make them accessible

Government Document Remediation

Published: September 10, 2021

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    Visual impairment affects 4.2 million Americans The youngest baby boomers will be 65 in 2029. The number of individuals affected is expected to double by that time. With more Americans requiring assistive technology for accessing tax documents, benefits, and other government information, federal agencies must meet a rising demand to serve these individuals.

    When so many Americans depend on unique technology for accessing critical information, there is no question that providing document accessibility is the right thing to do. Many business agencies are mandated by law to do so.

    Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act compliance requires government contractors and business agencies receiving federal funds to be in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act compliance and provide constituents with documents they can use. For the partially sighted or blind, 508 compliance-accessible items include HTML5 or PDF, audio files, e-text, large print, and braille.

    What Is Document Remediation

    Solutions to inaccessible documents refer to software that converts an inaccessible document into media usable by those with cognitive impairments, partially sighted, or blind. The procedure begins with rules and a template that create versions of original documents that those with disabilities can access.

    Any elements not needed are marked as ‘artifacts.’ Assistive technology ignores those elements. The accessibility software runs under the protection of a firewall and is no more vulnerable to attack than any other software.

    It is part of the procedure to create document accessibility or in a portal serving documents to users. The best benefit of accessibility software is the reduction in time to remediate. It can take days or weeks to remediate documents manually. The technology has significant advantages, but agencies must build templates for each kind of document. It takes from several hours to a few weeks. There may be a slight increase in the time needed to process documents that people can access.

    The increase can be alleviated by simultaneously remediating documents with other document assembly processing. If a concurrent procedure is not possible, an offline batch procedure can minimize workflow disruption.

    The best software solution has a graphical interface used to optimize the creation of business rules for the conversion into formats that are accessible. It allows people to create rules for setting the reading order and adding alternate text.

    What Is PDF Remediation?

    PDF stands for Portable Document Format. It is among the most popular digital form that supports all kinds of documents. They include statements, applications, e-books, invoices, and more. PDFs are a frequently used public accommodation.

    PDF remediation helps those with disabilities read electronic content correctly. Not every user accesses them in the same way. Users with vision impairments may find they are not accessible or optimized enough for screen readers.

    According to the Act, PDFs on a website or other digital medium that everyone cannot access impose the risk of a legal accessibility-related lawsuit. While it is important to any digital product agency, web accessibility is especially important for education, finance and banking, healthcare, and government organizations.

    ‘PDF remediation’ is not a term familiar to everyone. It is pretty standard in the assistive technology world. PDF document accessibility, like HTML content, has a vital role in the accessibility of a website. Every remediated PDF is usable by a larger group of individuals.

    The format makes tables, links, lists, images, and text cleaner and more organized. This structure improves search engine optimization and helps websites rank higher when people search. The most significant benefit is electronic document remediation ensures everything looks the same online as in print. Accessible PDFs need to be readable, and information accurately presented to users whether they use a mobile device or desktop, Windows or Mac, regardless of the assistive technology used.

    How do you remediate a PDF?

    PDF remediation is a process of ‘tagging’ PDF document digital elements, which are readable when using assistive technology. The ‘tags’ identify elements and inform the technology about the correct order to read.

    Each digital tag identifies the kind of content and stores some related attributes. Tags also arrange the hierarchical structure of a document. They add order to the content by organizing headings, paragraphs, footnotes, tables, images, and lists in a PDF file.

    Ways to Repair PDF Documents and Make Them Accessible

    There are two ways to repair and make documents accessible – the do-it-yourself method using a suite of accessibility software or tools or having a professional PDF remediator do it. There are remediation services, such as ADA Site Compliance, that have the training needed to create accessible PDFs.

    The services take the documents and do a page-by-page review to see what needs to be done to accomplish maximum document remediation. Critical components of document accessibility focus on adding alternative text, altering the structure of headings and tables, changing the reading order, and adapting color contrast.

    Section 508 Compliance for PDFs

    If a PDF is not tagged, some people find it challenging to interact with it. Currently, PDF accessibility standards and requirements include various points that specifically apply to PDF files. The US Access Board has not defined a legal set of requirements. Many are Section 508 compliant to meet accessibility requirements.

    PDF Remediation Cannot Be Automated

    It requires manual labor to remediate PDF accessibility. There is much work involved to ensure an accurate tag structure. Software, such as Adobe Acrobat DC, has helpful features but does not complete the process.

    After the alternative text, reading order, and color contrast fixes have been implemented, the documents must have a manual and automatic test to ensure the latest accessible documents standards of Section 508 compliance are met.

    Formats and PDF Documents that Can Be Made Accessible

    Standard formats that can be made accessible include PDF documents and Microsoft Office documents like Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Publisher. Word documents in the original format are the easiest to remediate accurately. Scanned images are not accessible documents. Some recognition tools recognize and add a structural tag to text. For the most part, scanned information needs to be recreated from scratch.

    PDF Document Remediation Process

    The essential steps include

    • Tagging files using the standard Adobe Acrobat version
    • Validating each page against a PDF document checklist
    • Remediating any items not complying or noted in the remediation report
    • Validating pages again
    • Saving a copy of the documents to the workflow infrastructure

    There are many videos and online resources about accessibility guidance and training that help with testing. Besides ADA standards and government regulations, every user needs equal availability to documents on websites.

    The creation and remediation of digital PDFs must be accessible to any screen reader and in full conformity with current accessibility standards. The ADA Site Compliance practice has a skilled team that can help achieve the best website accessibility results.

    What Is Americans with Disabilities Act Remediation?

    ADA remediation is a procedure in which electronic documents are made screen reader accessible to allow the visually impaired to hear auditory versions of images and text within a document.

    WCAG 2.0 AA

    WCAG 2.0 consists of guidelines for making web content accessible to people with a wide range of disabilities. The guidelines are somewhat like the Rehabilitation Act Section 508 compliant guidelines. They focus primarily on HTML-based devices and content. The most common barriers for people with disabilities are removed with Level AA compliance.

    Required Americans with Disability Compliance

    Federal law requires ADA compliance. Any electronic document available to the general public must comply with Section 508.

    PDF Americans with Disabilities Act Compliance

    PDFs that are created with the standard export process are non-compliant with the ADA. They lack the backend structures and information that allow them to be read by screen readers. The documents also lack ADA requirements like alternate text, appropriate color, and contrast.

    Making Standard PDFs Compliant

    Most standard PDFs can be remediated with some exceptions regarding artwork and contrast. New artwork must be created to complete the process of remediation explained above.

    To check your website for accessibility, we here at ADA Site Compliance offer a FREE SCAN for you. Check your website now!

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