Why Should you Avoid Inaccessible PDFs?

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Key Takeaways -
  1. Accessible PDFs are necessary for an accessible website.
  2. The consequences of inaccessible PDFs are lawsuits, bad reputation, and loss of business.
  3. Accessible PDFs are the right thing to do for an inclusive strategy.
  4. Having accessible documents can benefit your customers and your business.

Why Should you Avoid Inaccessible PDFs?

Digital accessibility is now a requisite, especially when social responsibility plays a hand. Imagine trying to make sense of twisted images, weird fonts, and random graphics (to name a few). That is how a person with a disability tries to read an inaccessible PDF with assistive technology.

Yet, you think you’ve taken steps to make your website accessible!

Complete web accessibility means the PDF files on your website need to be accessible too. The impact inaccessible PDFs can have on your business can cause severe damage.

Inaccessibility Attracts Lawsuits

One repercussion of inaccessible PDFs is lawsuits. General accessibility standards are moving toward WCAG 2.1 to meet the needs of its differently-abled users. So having an inaccessible website, whether it’s a government website or not, is grounds for legal action.

The number of digital accessibility lawsuits has seen an increase in recent years. Each case is time-consuming and expensive. Now, most websites, including PDFs and other digital content, without written clarity on the issue, are considered to be places of public accommodation under Title III of the ADA. If any files on your website or your website are inaccessible, you’re violating the ADA.

Inaccessibility causes Reputational Damage to your Business

Consumers want to trust and support companies that support good causes, like accessibility. Accessibility creates an environment that values equality. And this attracts consumers with and without disabilities. Failing to make all your digital communication, including PDFs, accessible gives the impression that your business does not prioritize accessibility and those who need it. Word spreads quickly, especially on the internet. Having inaccessible content can cause damage to your branding, customer base, and market share.

Inaccessibility Limits the Reach of Your Business

As a business, your goal is to reach as many people as possible. And users with disabilities include a significant part of the market. Considering today’s digital dependence, excluding accessible PDFs and other basic ADA requirements can result in losing existing and potential customers.

Accessible websites can also lead to a growth in revenue. An increasing number of consumers are driven by values. They prefer socially responsible, diverse, and inclusive businesses, even with rising costs. Not accommodating web accessibility, including PDF accessibility, is the risk of losing traffic and sales.

Accessibility Benefits All

PDF accessibility is not just for users with blindness or partial sight but also those with hearing impairments, weak motor & agility skills, and learning disabilities. One could argue that it can even benefit all users. A general benefit that all users can enjoy is the availability of documents they would otherwise have limited access to. Plus, accessible PDFs are easier to navigate, maintain, update, and convert to other formats.

It also provides an SEO(Search Engine Optimization) boost. An accessible PDF document allows for easy web crawling by search engines such as Google. This makes it more visible to online searches and improves the likelihood of finding its way to your target audience.

Importance of having Accessible PDFs

Web accessibility is understanding, recognizing, and ensuring that everybody gets the same opportunity to participate. Nowadays, most communication is available in a digital format. However, organizations fail to realize the importance accessible documents have in today’s world.

Accessibility Encourages Inclusivity

A large percentage of the population requires assistive technology. This specially designed equipment, software, or hardware, helps people with disabilities with tasks they would otherwise be unable to do—for example, screen readers and screen magnifiers for visually impaired users. Inaccessible PDFs make it difficult for them to enjoy the same access as everyone else. Making sure your resources are available to everyone, especially people with disabilities, shows that your business is willing to make an effort to include all customers.

Accessibility Displays Good Business Sense

For an inclusive business strategy, accessible PDFs are the right thing to do. Assuming a fair part of your customer base struggles with a disability, being inaccessible excludes at least 20% of your target group.

Investing in complete web accessibility shows your organization’s willingness to adapt and commitment to social responsibility. This allows for a better user experience enjoyed by all customers and a positive brand perception.

Accessibility Helps Avoid Bad Publicity

Keeping your business up-to-date with digital norms is hard enough. Neglecting to make your website and PDFs accessible in an ever-changing digital environment can cause a negative brand image, lower sales and market share, and other PR disasters.

Final Thoughts

  1. Complete web accessibility means the PDF files on your website need to be accessible too.
  2. The impact inaccessible PDFs can have on your business include:
    1. Time-consuming and expensive lawsuits
    2. Damage to your reputation
    3. You are losing your customers, sales, and traffic.
  3. Web accessibility is an investment that benefits your customers and your business. It creates an environment of equal opportunities for all users.

Businesses that don’t prioritize web accessibility end up alienating a good portion of their customer base and fall behind. That includes inaccessible PDFs. Whether a private or federal organization, the goal is to make PDFs and other digital resources accessible to everyone. It’s about providing equal access to all your customers – including those with disabilities.

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Debangku Sarma

Digital Marketing Associate
Continual Engine

Vijayshree Vethantham

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

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