ADA Document Information

Electronic Documents must be ADA accessible.

We’re used to Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA accessibility meaning physical requirements like wheelchair ramps and disabled washrooms. But courts have ruled that it also applies to the digital world.

Title II requires that programs and activities offered by State and Local government be accessible. And Section 508 requires Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible. Florida local governments are moving in that direction and those that work with them need to keep up.

As you think about what that means, consider a person of less sight using a screen reader to read your PDF document to them. Can they understand what you’ve communicated with just the words? If not, you need to rethink what you’re presenting. Pretend Siri is going to read it to you and write so you could understand it.

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Plan Ahead for Remediation

Let’s face it, you’re busy with a million things and you don’t need to add becoming an ADA remediation expert. The most efficient option for you is to keep doing your job and hire an expert to do your remediation when it’s needed.

But there are things you can do to make your remediation go more quickly and easily.

Build in turn-around time

Just like you have to plan ahead if you’re sending a document to be bound and collated, you need to plan for the remediation turn-around. A good rule of thumb is a couple of days – but that depends on the size and complexity of your file. If it’s really big and complicated you might need more time. You can always pay for a rush job, but that increases costs.

Create your document with remediation in mind

Accessibility is about making your document easier to read and understand for everyone, so think of ways to improve your communication. For example:

  • Use sans serif fonts.
  • Title your document in a meaningful way and put that title on the first page of the document, not just in the file name.
  • Use an outline structure. Don’t just make font bold, rather define that as a heading and then use proper heading structure throughout. Think of it like chapters in a book, title that chapter so people know what is covered in that section.
  • Create a standard templet using that outline structure so you are consistent throughout.
  • Put things in an obvious order. Computer readers need to be taught to read sections in a particular order – which your remediation team will do for you – but you need to make sure it makes sense. For example, if you have two bodies of information side by side – should people read the left one first?
  • Define your images. As you insert images, include notes of what that image is. Maybe you are using that image to show the current state of repair a piece of equipment is in, but maybe that same image is supposed to tell me the manufacturer of that equipment. Make a note on what you are communicating with that image. You will often see this referred to as alt-text.
  • If you are using tables, make sure that the table is as clear as possible. For example, do all the columns and rows have titles? If the table continues to the next page, repeat the top row names so you don’t have to flip back and forth.
  • If you use the same forms regularly, consider having a template made to save time.

Avoid common mistakes

ADA Accessibility can be confusing so avoid these common missteps.

  • Don’t expect “auto-tagging” to make your document accessible or compliant.
  • Don’t combine languages too much. If you have a document which needs to be in English and Spanish, prepare them as two separate files so screen readers will know how to pronounce the words. If it’s just a section or two of a second language, you can keep it as one document, but if you’re translating the whole thing – do it in two files.
  • Don’t over simplify your content. If you need to communicate technical information, a good remediator can do it.
  • Don’t scan your document unless you have no other option. Generally, having the information in any electronic format will be faster and less expensive to remediate than scans. They basically have to be completely rebuilt.
  • Don’t assume an auto-program can remediate your document. There are ALWAYS issues which can only be addressed by human beings reviewing the work. Computer software is a great start but it’s not capable of finishing the job.
  • Don’t rely on changes to font (i.e. color, italics, bolding) to communicate information.