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Making Digital Document Access a Top Priority

By Richard Huff

Document accessibility was a hot topic of conversation at Madison Advisors’ 2023 CCM/CX Executive Roundtable in March. At the Roundtable, digital document access was identified as a top priority for improved customer experiences. Accessibility refers to features that enable recipients with disabilities to read a document. For digital documents, accessibility can range from large print to full tagging of all text, tables and objects.

As enterprises deliver more communications through digital channels, they must remain in compliance with federal requirements and provide a positive customer experience by ensuring that digital documents are accessible. Enterprises are at risk of losing customers with poorly designed customer communications that result in a poor customer experience. While customer acquisition costs vary by industry, they can range in the hundreds of dollars.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 61 million U.S. adults—one in five—live with a disability. Roughly 4.9% of the U.S. population is blind or as has low vision, meaning they experience serious difficulty with eyesight even while wearing glasses. People with vision-related disabilities often use screen readers, alternate text and other accessibility features to consume digital documents. Enterprises are increasingly expected to meet these varied ways of receiving information to provide their customers with full access to both personalized and non-personalized information.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Title III requires many enterprises to provide full and equal access to people with disabilities. This portion of the legislation covers websites, internet portals and digital documents, all of which impact the relationship between enterprises and their customers.

Due to the sensitive nature of customer communications and the importance of making them accessible to the customer, a significant number of lawsuits have been filed to ensure compliance with the regulations. The number of Title lll ADA lawsuits has climbed nearly every year since 2013, with at least 11,452 federal filings documented in 2021 alone. Overall, accessibility lawsuits have seen a 320% increase over the past eight years.

The standards for an accessible document are complex and best handled by experts. A variety of factors need to be considered when creating accessible documents including, but not limited to, text alternatives for graphics, robust color contrast and support for keyboard navigation. A number of software companies and service providers offer accessibility solutions and work with enterprises to develop templates for the organization’s document types and a cloud-based solution to create and return accessible PDF documents, conforming to industry standards. The PDF format ensures accessibility for individuals using assistive technology to access digital content.

In an increasingly digital world, customers expect personalized, relevant communications delivered via their preferred channels and devices. The demand for well-designed communications has a direct impact on loyalty with over 50% of customers indicating they would abandon a brand after only one or two negative interactions. Enterprises must find ways to meet this demand, while also providing accessible communications to the millions of adults in the U.S. with disabilities.

Over the past two decades, Madison Advisors' industry-neutral expertise enables enterprise organizations, service providers and technology providers to achieve their strategic objectives around today’s evolving customer communications management (CCM) requirements.
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