What is PDF remediation and why is it important
If your company uses PDF documents regularly, these PDFs must be built in such a way that assistive technologies can interpret and reproduce the content in a useful way, according to Section 508. This requirement allows individuals with disabilities to understand content just as effectively as individuals without disabilities. The process of taking existing PDF documents and turning them into accessible documents is known as PDF remediation.
There are companies that provide PDF remediation services or offer PDF remediation tools that your team can use in-house. In both cases though, the devil is in the details, and not every PDF remediation solution is the same. Face-value decisions can be dangerous since the repercussions of unremediated PDFs can be far-reaching and costly.
Why is finding a reliable PDF remediation provider so hard
The problem of budget and time constraints push providers to cut corners to get things done on time and under budget. This results in PDF remediation services that meet the bare-minimum requirements, usually confirmed by automatic verification tools. However, what tools find as a remediated PDF, in reality, is a PDF remediated to meet these tools’ requirements, not the needs of individuals with disabilities.
In other words, when companies look for a quick and affordable PDF remediation service , the thing that suffers is quality. Low quality PDF remediation services become a minefield in casualties through the form of lawsuits for providing poorly remediated PDF documents.
How to approach the PDF remediation sales conversation with potential providers
Avoid the pitfall of spending a ton of time and money on questionable PDF remediation services by paying close attention to these five test points. Clearly this is not an exhaustive list, but it should give you a good guideline to help you weed out companies that over-promise.
There’s nothing worse than going with a company that trivializes the complexity of your project by bringing up all the issues they claimed were non-issues. By then, you’ve already committed significant resources and going back may not be an option, both time-wise and budget-wise.
We are not criticizing this kind of business model. For some PDF remediation service providers, this is the default mode of work. And for some clients, this is acceptable practice as it cuts plenty of corners and gets the PDF remediation project done faster and cheaper.
But for most of the clients that we’ve worked with, quality of work was critical, and that PDF remediation be done by the book. For government agencies and public organizations such as universities, it doesn’t make much business sense to risk cutting corners with substandard PDF remediation, since some key issues may still lay hidden beneath the surface of auto-generated accessibility tags and automated PDF remediation checkers. This is why we were a good fit.
Let’s see the five key points to keep in mind when you’re looking for a PDF remediation service provider.
Claiming company age or experience as evidence of high quality.
PDF remediation services, unfortunately, become a matter of scale. The more work PDF remediation companies get, the more they rush to finish projects and move on to the next client. However, age and size of the company is not a guarantee of attention to details. In fact, it can be grounds for suspecting that to them, you are just another client who needs to go through their internal processes. In the services sector, you may be better treated and get much higher quality if you work with a smaller PDF remediation provider.
Offering the fastest turnaround possible.
PDF remediation is a laborious process that requires skilled staff and a ridiculous level of attention to detail. Bullet lists, images, graphs, charts and other text formatting details require time to process. Yes, there are tools on the market that do help in speeding things up, but this process is still not fully automated. There are too many document variables for a tool to be able to pre-process the PDF document reliably and consistently. PDF remediation companies that promise fast turnaround will cut corners in the details, and it is these omissions that can get you in trouble. A remediation checker tool may interpret all tags as valid, but when these workers are chasing unrealistic deadlines, the focus is on pleasing the automated checker, not to provide a properly remediated PDF that will be a proper representative of the content when accessed by screen readers.
Claiming proprietary software that provides unbelievable help in PDF remediation.
As we’ve hinted in the previous paragraphs, PDF remediation is too complex of a process to be fully automated. There are tools on the market that do a decent job of recognizing text formatting and these tools can auto-generate most of the tags. But the problem lays in the fact that with various styles of writing and formatting, especially with older documents, these tools usually get things wrong. So, while these tools would provide a technically remediated PDF document, that remediation will be based on assumptions that the software made, which may not be reliable.
Claiming speed of delivery thanks to a large team.
PDF remediation is skilled work, and skilled workers aren’t easy to find. Companies that do employ such experts usually pay a premium. So, the outcome of this skilled work may be fast, but it will certainly not be the cheapest option. The red flags should go up when you are talking to a company that claims expert work for bargain-based prices. In the services world, there are three key components of the deal: time, cost and quality. If you want a fast and affordable service, quality will suffer. If you want an affordable and quality service, time will suffer. And if you want a fast turnaround with high quality, the price will go up. This triangular relationship dictates how companies work, and it’s a signal of how your project would be handled.
Saying “no problem” on any corner-cutting question you throw at them.
In the screening process, when you review different PDF remediation service providers, make sure to bring up some difficult questions. Better yet, get a complex PDF document that you have, and ask the company to walk you through the complexity of the document and give you details about how they would remediate it. Companies that have adopted a quality-first company culture will be slow to jump to conclusions and promise the moon and stars. They will take their time to explain the complexity and explain how and WHY they would remediate certain elements of the document in certain ways. You may ask them if there are ways to cut corners and speed things up. If they say “sure, no problem, we can do XYZ to speed things up”, it’s a good time step back and rethink if this is a company that you want to entrust your PDF remediation project.
As you can see, PDF remediation is a complex topic, and you will have to read between the lines to evaluate which PDF remediation provider to go with. This is big business for PDF remediation companies. It’s also a huge responsibility for organizations to make sure their PDFs are accessible to individuals with disabilities. Failure to comply with Section 508 and ADA requirements can be a costly problem to solve.
This is why smart organizations act proactively and look for PDF remediation before a lawsuit knocks on their door. But finding a PDF remediation company isn’t a simple task. It is understandable that in a competitive landscape, companies will want to promise the moon and stars just to get you as a client. While this is admirable, it is up to you to have a sharp eye and see past the sales presentations and rosy promises.
Some companies will claim they are the best pick because they are in existence for X many years. But we all know that age isn’t a guarantee of attention to details. It’s only proof that the sales department and remediation teams can pump out projects profitably.
Some companies will claim people, processes or technology as the competitive edge. While this would be a very solid candidate, keep in mind that with services, you get what you pay for. Speed and affordability will always mean higher prices. On the other hand, speed, quality and low cost will be indicative of a sketchy offer, and you may not want to risk doing business with such a deal.
If you are proactively looking for a PDF remediation service and your primary concern is quality, Armedia may be a good fit for you. We have a dedicated task force of expert PDF remediators that can tackle any PDF remediation project, no matter how complex the PDFs are.
Feel free to reach out to us for a free PDF remediation consult, no strings attached.