For quite some time, Knowbility has offered a Document Remediation service through Access Works, our program that employs disabled vets and other people with disabilities. Through several phases of repair, testing and quality assurance, we strive to provide accessible documents for our clients to publish on their websites. We work with Microsoft Office files, as well as PDF’s that can be accessed through Adobe Acrobat. It has been a great learning process, as we figure out the most efficient way to bring these documents into compliance with outlined accessibility guidelines.
Almost all of the issues we encounter with documents originate in their creation. The authors are not thinking about accessibility when creating them and as a result, no matter what format they are rendered in, many people cannot access their information. Often when our Remediation team gets a document, we do not have access to the original source file and it becomes very difficult to ensure its accessibility in a quick and easy fashion. In some cases, the only way to make the document fully compliant would be to recreate it from the ground up.
This is an instance when once again, education is the key. If document authors were to consider accessibility as they are creating them, there is a greater chance of everyone having access to the information. It is a much easier process to make it accessible as you go, then to come in after the fact and try to fix it. There is an excellent article by Deborah Kaplan and Monir ElRayes, entitled “Document Accessibility Should Begin at the Author Level.” It is vital that we continue to reach out and educate people about accessibility. This is not just a fad that will go away, it means access or the lack of for a growing percentage of the population! If each of us thought even a little about accessibility as we create web content, software, hardware, etc, life would be better for everyone in the end.