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Friday, December 8, 2023

Ensuring PDF Accessibility for Financial Documents and Statements

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Financial institutions such as banks, investment companies, and accounting firms serve as secure custodians for customers and investors to maintain and expand their financial assets. Nowadays, customers expect to have easy access to their financial documents online through various websites or applications, which are frequently provided in the form of PDF files. 

Although saving financial documents in PDF format ensures consistent and secure production, they can be inaccessible to people using assistive technology. As approximately 25% of the population has some form of disability, digital accessibility is crucial for both clients and businesses success. Individuals who use assistive devices, such as screen readers or Braille displays, may face difficulty accessing crucial documents. One potential solution is PDF remediation, which can resolve such accessibility issues. With the right PDF accessibility checker tool, creating an accessible document is relatively easy.  

Which Financial Documents Need to be Accessible?

The following PDF documents should be made accessible:

  • Monthly bank statements
  • Reports on investment growth
  • Earnings reports
  • Transaction histories
  • Market trend reports
  • Informational brochures outlining different account types
  • Booklets covering stock options.

How to Make Your PDFs Accessible? 

Wondering what makes a PDF accessible? Well, this section is here to address your queries while providing you with a comprehensive understanding of the key factors that contribute to it.

1. Adding Tags

When it comes to creating accessible PDFs, adding tags is a crucial step. Tags help organize the structure of the document, making it easier for people with disabilities to navigate and understand the content. Tags are essentially metadata that describes the purpose and hierarchy of the different elements in the document, such as headings, paragraphs, images, and tables. By adding tags, you can ensure that assistive technologies like screen readers can accurately interpret the information and present it in a way that is comprehensible to the user. Additionally, tagged PDFs are more searchable and compatible with different devices and platforms, improving the overall user experience for everyone.

2. Images with Alt Text

Another important aspect of creating accessible PDFs is including alternative text, or “alt text,” for images. Alt text is a brief description of the image that can be read by screen readers or other assistive technologies. This is especially important for people with visual impairments who rely on these technologies to understand the content. Alt text should be concise but descriptive, conveying the meaning or purpose of the image without being too lengthy or subjective. It is also important to avoid using “placeholder” text like “image not available” or “picture here” as this does not provide any useful information to the user. By adding alt text to images, you can ensure that everyone can access and benefit from the content in your PDF document.

3. Searchable Text

Making your PDFs searchable is another key component of creating accessible documents. The searchable text allows users to easily find specific words or phrases within the document, which can be particularly useful for people with cognitive or learning disabilities, as well as those who prefer to skim or scan content. To make your PDFs searchable, you need to use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software, which converts scanned or image-based text into editable, searchable text. It is also important to ensure that the text is properly formatted and structured, with clear headings, paragraphs, and other visual cues that make it easy to follow and understand. By making your PDFs searchable, you can enhance the usability and accessibility of your content, making it more inclusive and user-friendly for everyone.

4. Use of Color

When selecting color-based distinctions for your PDF, avoid relying solely on color as a means of conveying information. Referring to a chart in your PDF as the “red chart” can be problematic for accessibility tools like screen readers, which may not be able to detect this information, resulting in the loss of valuable content. It’s important to pay attention to color contrast as well. To ensure compliance, utilize Adobe’s color contrast tool.

5. Logical Order in Tables

One key element in creating accessible PDFs is ensuring a logical order in tables. Tables are a helpful way to present complex data, but they can be difficult for people with disabilities to understand if they are not structured appropriately. When creating a table, it’s important to arrange the information in a clear and logical order, with column and row headings that are easily identifiable. This assists screen readers in accurately interpreting the data and presenting it in a way that is comprehensible to the user. It’s also important to steer clear of complex table designs, merged cells, or nested tables, as these can create confusion and make the information harder to access. By following these guidelines, you can guarantee that your tables are easy to navigate and comprehend for all users, regardless of their abilities.

Final Thoughts 

Making financial documents and statements accessible to everyone is essential for organizations to provide fair and equitable services. Even the most complex of documents can be made accessible in a few simple steps with the right tool. Organizations must strive to make sure all their customers have access to financial documents and statements regardless of ability.

Author Bio: 

Emilie Brown works with the Digital Marketing team at PREP, an AI-based remediation software that enables businesses to create WCAG and ADA compliant PDFs in minutes. Her approach and methodology is simple, concise and to-the-point and connects with readers seeking for solution-driven content on topics related to accessibility and remediation. Apart from her time at work, she loves to spend time with her dog, volunteer and play her guitar.

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