Best Practices To Create Accessible PDFs For Financial Reports And Statements

Graphical picture of Best Practices To Create Accessible PDFs For Financial Reports And Statements

Introduction

Accessibility is crucial to creating digital content for financial institutions, such as banks, investment companies, and accounting firms, which are vital in managing and safeguarding individuals’ financial assets. In today’s digital age, customers expect to conveniently access their financial documents online, often in PDF format. However, these PDFs can pose financial accessibility challenges for people using assistive technology.
With an untapped demographic of over one billion people with disabilities, ensuring that financial reports and statements are accessible to all is not just a matter of legal compliance but also a way to provide an inclusive banking experience. This article will discuss the importance of document accessibility for banking and provide tips on creating accessible PDFs for financial reports and statements, empowering individuals of all abilities to engage with financial information seamlessly.

Why Is Document Accessibility Important For Seamless Banking?

It is essential to ensure digital accessibility for all, as approximately a quarter of the population has some form of disability. People who use assistive devices like screen readers or Braille displays may require assistance accessing critical financial documents, particularly PDFs. Financial institutions must prioritize making PDFs accessible and consider accessibility when organizing their financial records.

Here are a few key pointers on why accessible financial documents are essential:
  1. Enhanced Customer Experience: Creating accessible financial documents improves the overall customer experience. When individuals with disabilities can access and understand financial information independently, it empowers them to make informed decisions and manage their finances effectively. Moreover, convenience plays a crucial role in customer adoption and utilization of banking and financial services. 
  2. Better Customer Loyalty: By prioritizing accessibility, financial institutions demonstrate their commitment to inclusivity and equal access. This fosters customer loyalty and builds trust, as individuals appreciate organizations that cater to their diverse needs. Customers are more likely to engage with and rely on financial services when they can access and use them conveniently.
  3. Increased Revenue: Accessible financial documents open doors to a more extensive and varied customer base, thereby increasing revenue and reducing costs related to customer acquisition. When people can easily understand and engage with financial reports, it encourages them to invest or make financial decisions, potentially leading to increased revenue for financial institutions. 
  4. Financial Inclusivity: Accessible documents contribute to financial inclusion by ensuring that individuals with disabilities have equal opportunities to access financial services and make sound financial choices. This promotes economic growth and development for those previously excluded from the financial sector.
  5. Mandatory Legal Compliance: Adhering to accessibility regulations, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), is crucial for financial institutions. Failure to provide accessible digital properties can cause discomfort for your client base, result in legal ADA finance-related consequences, and even damage to the institution’s reputation.
  6. Effortless Banking: Accessible PDFs enable individuals to navigate financial reports effortlessly, locate specific information quickly, and perform banking tasks independently. This improves the efficiency and convenience of critical interactions between customers and their financial institutions through monthly statements, reports, and other transactional communications.
  7. Good Marketing Move: Demonstrating a commitment to accessibility can be a powerful marketing tool and strategy with a tangible customer experience upside. It sets financial institutions apart from competitors and appeals to a broader audience that values inclusivity.

Which Financial Documents Need To Be Made Accessible?

To ensure equal access, various financial documents must be easily accessible. These may include:
  • Annual reports
  • Monthly bank statements
  • Financial statements
  • Prospectuses
  • Loan agreements
  • Insurance policies
  • Investment summaries
  • Tax forms
  • Account statements
  • Investment growth reports
  • Transaction history
  • Market trend reports
  • Informational brochures about the types of accounts
  • Booklets of stock options

Tips To Create Accessible PDFs For Financial Reports And Statements

  1. Understand The Requirements: Getting familiar with accessibility guidelines such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 can help ensure compliance when creating accessible PDFs and other digital properties.
  2. Support For Assistive Technology: Ensuring that your PDFs are compatible with screen readers, magnifiers, and other assistive technologies used by individuals with disabilities is essential. Testing the document with different assistive technologies ensures accessibility across the spectrum.
  3. Alt-Text Descriptions For Images: Including descriptive alt-text for images within your PDFs is necessary as it provides context that screen readers can read aloud, allowing individuals with visual impairments to understand and interpret the visual content.
  4. Proper Document Structure Tags and Reading Order: Providing PDFs with appropriate structural tags and a logical reading order is pertinent. It allows screen readers to navigate the document correctly and ensures the content is presented logically and meaningfully.
  5. Interactive Form Fields: Ensuring your financial reports or statements contain interactive form fields and are appropriately labeled is optimal. This allows individuals using assistive technology to complete and submit forms without barriers.
  6. Navigational Aids: Including navigational aids such as bookmarks, headings, and links within your PDFs facilitates easy navigation for individuals using any assistive technology. It helps them jump to specific sections or access related information quickly.
  7. Accurate Color Contrast: Ensuring that the color contrast between text and background elements in your PDFs meet accessibility standards ensures readability for individuals with visual impairments or color deficiencies. Using color contrast for accessibility and checking tools to verify compliance, can help users visually interpret them with ease.
  8. Audio and Video Controls: Embedding your financial reports or statements with audio or video content provides accessible controls for playback. This allows individuals with hearing impairments or other disabilities to access and understand multimedia content.
  9. Testing for Accessibility: Running accessibility testing on accessible PDFs helps them perform better. Using accessibility evaluation tools and conducting manual checks to identify and address any accessibility issues is mandatory. This ensures that your PDFs meet the necessary accessibility standards.
  10. Multiple Formats: Providing your financial reports and statements in multiple formats, such as HTML or plain text, in addition to PDF, offers flexibility and accommodates different accessibility needs and preferences.

Final Thoughts

Creating accessible PDFs for financial reports and statements is more than a legal requirement. It is a way to provide an equitable and seamless banking experience for all individuals, regardless of their varied abilities. By understanding customers’ needs, implementing accessibility features, and conducting thorough accessibility testing, financial institutions can ensure that all digital properties and documents are accessible to everyone.

Continual Engine offers PREP (PDF & Document Remediation Platform) that exponentially simplifies the PDF and document remediation process. Our sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI)-powered technology accelerates the remediation process, allowing institutions to efficiently handle large volumes of complex PDFs. With PREP’s customizable services, businesses can meet unique accessibility requirements and prioritize the needs of their users. By leveraging automation and cutting-edge technologies, PREP delivers fast and accurate remediation results that adhere to the highest quality and compliance standards. PREP streamlines your document remediation process and helps achieve enhanced accessibility for all users.

With Continual Engine‘s commitment to simplifying accessibility and leveraging generative AI, you can ensure that your financial documents are accessible to everyone, contributing to a more inclusive and equitable banking experience. Our generative AI-powered solutions and human expertise can help you meet accessibility standards, enhance the customer experience, and achieve financial inclusivity. Together, let’s make financial information accessible to everyone.

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Editors:

Debangku Sarma

Digital Marketing Associate
Continual Engine

Vijayshree Vethantham

Senior Vice-President, Growth & Strategy
Continual Engine US LLC

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