Making documents accessible: The role of remediation


Two colleagues collaborate on a computer.
Photo by Disability:IN.

Creating digital content that everyone can access is crucial. Although built-in accessibility checkers help, making documents accessible needs a specialized skill set known as document remediation.

In this post, we explain document remediation. We define what it is, who benefits from it, and why it matters. Plus, we spotlight a screen reader demo by Anu Pala, one of our accessibility consultants, to show the impact remediation has on a document.

What is document remediation?

Document remediation transforms an existing digital document into one that is compatible with assistive technologies. Many people with disabilities rely on assistive technologies like screen readers to use computers and engage with websites and digital documents.

Document remediation is a process that involves:

  1. reviewing the content,
  2. identifying accessibility issues, and
  3. making the necessary changes to improve the document’s accessibility.

Built-in accessibility checkers can relieve some of this work, but only to a certain extent. Complex documents with images, charts, tables, and sophisticated graphic design are usually not accessible.

Remediating these documents requires a specific skill set that usually falls outside the scope of most marketing and communications teams. There are companies who specialize in doing this work.

Digital documents follow the criteria of the ISO Standard 14289-1 and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. PDF for Universal Access (PDF/UA) is a common evaluation tool remediation companies use.

How do you know that your document is accessible?

If you’re a sighted reader, you probably won’t notice any difference in the remediated version of the document. This is because the work is in the background of the document, much like the coding of a website.

The remediation company you work with should give you a report. The report summarizes the accessibility of your document and states whether it has passed the required criteria.

Who benefits from document remediation?

There are many users who benefit from document remediation. One of the largest groups are people who use screen reader technologies.

Screen readers are necessary for people with vision-related disabilities. Vision-related disabilities are the fifth most common type of disability in Canada. Screen readers are also helpful for folks with cognitive differences who benefit from hearing content read out loud.

Keyboard accessibility is an important aspect of screen readers. Blind users typically use keyboards for navigation. This technology also helps users with motor disabilities navigate their operating systems, documents, and spreadsheets.

Screen reader demo

To learn about the impact remediation has on a document, watch this screen reader demo by Anu: Navigating documents with JAWS 2024 (opens YouTube video).

Why is document remediation important?

Ensuring accessibility in your public documents, especially your accessibility plan, is crucial for embodying the principle of “nothing about us without us.” This principle emphasizes including disabled people in decisions that directly affect them.

Accessibility plans give information on the barriers experienced by people with disabilities and the plan for removing them, as well as opportunities for feedback.

This means disabled people are more likely to be the main audience for your accessibility plans. Communication barriers should be removed so they have equal access to the information in your plan.

By prioritizing accessibility through remediation, organizations not only comply with document accessibility best practices. They also show a commitment to transparency and inclusivity, contributing to more effective and responsive public policies and services.

Untapped Accessibility is your partner in all things accessibility. Whether your organization is taking action in response to accessibility legislation, or you see accessibility as a business imperative, we can help! Contact us today to take meaningful steps towards a more accessible and equitable future.