Accessible print for all

Written By: Peter Abrahams
Content Copyright © 2009 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.

Over the last few years transactional reports to consumers such as telephone bills, bank statements, financial product statements and utility bills have all become more voluminous as more detail has been included and extra information such as advertising and logos have been added. An extreme example is the annual report I now get for a financial product; it used to be just one page showing the opening and closing balance, and is now an eight page document with detailed explanations and suggestions which have been specially configured based on what the company knows about me. A similar example is my telephone bill which now has all the calls itemised and divided into sections by type.

Although I find these useful they pose a real challenge for people with print disabilities. Print disability is an umbrella term that not only covers the obvious disabilities such as blindness or severely impaired vision, but also includes dyslexia, illiteracy and any physical disability that makes the manipulation of paper difficult.

People with print disabilities require the information to be provided in alternate formats. These include Braille, large print, audio and eText for screen readers. The problem for the institutions creating this information is how to provide it in these various formats. It might be possible to go back to the original source and create a separate programme that produces the information in the right formats. This however has the danger of the outputs becoming out of sync and people with disabilities getting incomplete or erroneous information; not to mention the additional costs and specialised skill sets for very small volumes of documents.

Crawford Technologies recently announced its Document Accessibility Service (DAS). DAS delivers a variety of alternate formats based on the existing print streams. The service:

  • Accepts most common print files including, AFP, Xerox Meta code, PCL, PostScript, PDF, EBCDIC, ASCII and other data types such as XML.
  • Configures the information extraction process.
  • Runs the extraction process that creates an internal format of a report; this internal representation is then converted into any one of the accessible output formats mentioned above.
  • Creates the physical output and distributes it to the clients. Alternatively this step can be done by the organisation locally based on a file shipped to them by Crawford Technologies.

The internal intermediary representation of the report has enabled the creation of a variety of accessible outputs very easily and will enable the creation of other formats as and when there is a market demand.

There are both strong legal, moral and marketing reasons for creating accessible transactional reports in alternate formats. I therefore believe that all organisations should be planning to produce them to ensure that they are neither sued nor that they lose market share. Crawford Technologies’ DAS provides a quick and cost-effective solution to this issue.