PDFs and other digital documents are being shared, sent and signed all over the world, yet, as many as 27% of the recipients are experiencing trouble interacting fully with these documents. Below are the Top 10 Reasons to ensure your PDFs are accessible and readable by all:

1. Avoid Litigation – protect your organization from lawsuits.

According to legal reporting, digital accessibility lawsuits – including web accessibility and PDF accessibility — are up significantly since 2020. The exponential growth in the filing of these lawsuits has had a widespread effect across industries, with small-to-medium sized businesses experiencing greater risk at the centre of the storm.

Lawsuit filings are expected to continue to rise. The need to enable accessible digital experiences is now a prominent driver in all sectors, with high profile cases such as Dominos Pizza and Beyoncé making headlines with costly litigation.

Legal precedents have cited Courts ruling against the inaccessibility of public-facing websites and documents denying persons with low vision, blindness or disability the rights to equal benefit and equal access to services and information in violation of the law.

Thankfully we can protect against these risky possibilities by accessibility-proofing our PDF documents and digital assets to comply with legal requirements — with the added benefit of being accessible, diverse and inclusive — while reaching a wider audience base for our organization or business.

2. Meet Government Regulations – avoid substantial financial penalties. 

Due to the increased use of the Internet, many countries have incorporated web accessibility into existing civil rights legislation in order to create inclusivity for, and protect people with disabilities. Canada, the US, and many other countries have adopted the WCAG 2.1 AA, or Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, as standard for accessible digital assets, and therefore refer to them in legal settlements.

While the US and Canada have their own specific Government regulations provided by Federal, State and Provincial laws, the overarching compliance norm can be clarified: websites and digital documents are considered places of public accommodation and should therefore be accessible to all, including people with low vision and disabilities, in compliance with the regional accessibility standards. Not meeting these requirements can lead to costly litigation, large fines, and of course, loss of potential business.

3. Make Documents Accessible to Clients & Customers – avoid losing customers that have low vision and disabilities, a huge market. Web accessibility improvements can help your organization connect with new and future clients. If you sell products that have PDF user guides or specifications, it’s especially important to make sure those PDFs are accessible.

  • Approximately 1 in 3 Americans — 61 million people — identifies as having low vision or a disability, representing a potential US spending power of more than $490 Billion annually
  • Approximately 1 in 4 Canadians — 6.2 million people — identifies as having low vision or a disability, representing a potential Canadian spending power of more than $50 billion annually

4. Receive a Tax Credit – If you’re a small business in the U.S., you could be eligible for a $5,000 tax credit. Through the IRS Code Section 44, Disabled Access Credit, your small business can qualify for a tax credit for increasing website accessibility and making other accommodations to make your business more usable to persons with disabilities. The policy statement “small businesses may take an annual tax credit for making their businesses accessible to persons with disabilities,” should, in most cases, cover the efforts you make to comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (29 U.S.C. § 794 (d)).

5. Protect & Grow Your Brand – Be a good corporate actor, and protect your brand by making your organization inclusive, and easier for people with disabilities to access information with the aid of assistive technology (software and devices), like screen magnifiers, screen readers, speech-recognition software, text-to-speech software, alternative input devices and refreshable Braille displays.

6. Increase Readability & Understanding – Depending on your region, approximately 27-33% of your audience have some form of low vision, barrier or disability that makes it difficult for them to read and understand non-accessible PDF documents. Increasing accessibility means increasing the readability and comprehension of your PDF documents.

7. Gain a Competitive Edge – With so much competition in the online marketplace, businesses must look for every opportunity to set themselves apart from their peers. If you can provide a user-friendly and inclusive experience, you may have a competitive advantage, and not just because you remove barriers for people with disabilities. One study revealed that 62% of consumers make purchasing decisions based on a company’s values and authenticity.

8. Better User Experience (UX) – Documents that are well-formatted, with headings, subheadings, and a logical hierarchy, are better for all visitors to your site. As you reformat PDFs, you can also update your content to make sure it’s still relevant. Makes content more usable by people who don’t have disabilities – e.g., anyone who tries to display a PDF on a small-sized screen, like a mobile phone, will be able to see it properly if the document has been structured in the proper order; anyone who prefers to use the keyboard instead of a mouse to jump from one form field to the next –will have a smoother experience if the pre-set tab order follows the proper sequence.

9. Provide Visual Consistency – Ensure your brand vision, images and information are consistent across mediums, and that PDFs are as effective online as they are in print.

10. Search Engine-Friendly Website – While you might think of PDFs as pieces that are separate from your website, search engine bots do crawl PDFs — or they attempt to, anyway. The bots can’t read inaccessible PDFs. Making your PDFs accessible helps search engines gather more information about your website, which in turn could improve your website’s visibility in search engine results pages.