Friday, January 24, 2014

Update on AODA for Document Accessibility

We’ve been asked to comment on a whirlwind of activity around AODA or the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.  In our Fall Seminar series, we learned that AODA has very specific timelines in place that mandate specific compliance for organizations with over 20 employees.  One of the early deadlines just passed, January 1, 2014.  By this time, organizations must be WCAG A compliant and have an accessibility plan outlined and documented.  AA compliance accrues to a future date.

This is having some specific impact on organizations which have not put a plan in place, and notably, one of the largest property & casualty insurers in North America recently sent out  a notice to all Ontarian customers informing them that:

“Due to technical limitations, starting December 8th 2013, most or possibly all documents you view online will no longer be available.  Unfortunately, this is a necessary step as we improve the overall accessibility of our site.”

               In the age of online customer service in which virtually all organizations not only have extensive website service channels, they actually use the website to reduce more expensive call center traffic.  The impact in terms of brand damage and sheer cost we know is huge.      

               This is completely avoidable.  The technology exists to quickly remediate websites, but even beyond that, there is now readily available technology to remediate high volume insurance documents, insurance cards, policies, bills, notices, claim letters, and the like.  Don’t let this happen!  Attend an Actuate webinar or seminar on document accessibility and find out what you can do!







Charlotte Document Accessibility Seminar

Momentum continues to build in the document accessibility space.  We recently held the 2nd installment of our seminar series, this time in Charlotte, NC.  The first session in Toronto was received very well and has led to a lot of discussion on the Ontario accessibility legislation and deadlines, more on that in our next post. 

This second session was almost twice as large in terms of attendees with 9 companies and 22 in attendance.  It’s remarkable that every single registrant actually made it to the session!  Also in attendance was TJ, a handsome German Shepherd service dog.  Note: it was sunny and gorgeous in Charlotte on this particular day!  

The presentations were on the mark with Tom Logan again providing the regulatory and litigation landscape, Shannon Kelly, working with Lou Fioritto at BrailleWorks, International demonstrated how a visually impaired person actually works with correctly tagged PDF’s.  Lou remarked that it’s important to keep in mind that for a visually impaired person, this type of technology opens the door to independence.   “Imgaine”, Lou said, “if you had to invite a stranger over to your house to read you your financial statements to you!” 

               Jeff Williams discussed the actual technology being used to create accessible PDF files for high volume transaction applications along with updates on PDF/UA, and Will Davis provided a demonstration of both creating applications that generate accessible PDF files, and remediating already created files in accessible format. 

               The Q&A session again proved to be one of the most interesting sessions.  There were questions on what happens if the tagging is somehow applied incorrectly or the alternate text, for example is out of sync with the image it is meant to represent.  The answer is that if you deploy this technology correctly, you are in fact storing a document which is the legally admissible document of record.  It would be highly unlikely to apply incorrect tags, but if it were to happen, it is easily corrected and according to Matt Aranas at SSBBart, one would have a very low probability of discrimination on that specific document. 

               Additional feedback came from an enterprise architect of a large credit card services company already using the Actuate document accessibility solution, who commented that the group that sets up the templates to manage high volume remediation does not also control the content being created.  Therefore, there is the possibility that somebody else along the way, either in a marketing or elsewhere could add new content that is not tagged.  It would be good to catch “un-tagged” elements as part of the process and send an SMS or email alert message to get those new document elements tagged and accessible immediately. 

               It was an excellent session and there were already next steps with a majority of the attendees either in terms of questions to be answered or more in-depth discussions and technology briefings.  The next Seminar event is scheduled for New York City in mid-April, followed by Washington D.C. in the summer!