Millions, likely billions, of documents are in a hostage situation, and accessibility, or lack thereof, is being used as ransom. Thankfully, there is an affordable solution to this accessibility standoff.
In accessibility, hostage documents occur when an organization or governmental department ignores requests to make its public information accessible to those with print impairments, resulting in a legal mandate to make all public documents accessible to people with print disabilities. When that deadline expires, any digital documents that are not made accessible to print disabled people are pulled offline. They remain offline to everyone until the day they are made accessible to print disabled individuals. Those documents are held hostage in exchange for paying the price of accessibility as ransom.
Are there actual cases of documents being held hostage?
Yes, here’s just one example.
After a 2017 audit, California was given two years to make all their documents accessible to blind and visually impaired people. According to Mike Nguyen, Caltrans chief technology officer, California spent well over six million dollars remediating just 13,000 of their 2.6 million documents.
At the end of the two-year deadline, they pulled the rest of the 2.3 million documents deemed inaccessible completely offline. Their opinion was, to keep within the letter of the law, they needed to take them down until they were made accessible.
The leverage tactic of holding something hostage is something we’ve all gotten used to. But, in cases like California, that tactic results in all citizens being unable to access the state’s online library of documents until they are made accessible to print disabled individuals.
Is holding documents hostage a good strategy for leveraging accessibility?
No. By default, it creates an adversarial relationship. Accessibility is seen as a costly problem in the eyes of the general public. That’s not how we want accessibility to be viewed by the public.
After spending two years and 6 million dollars, only 13,000 of California’s 2.6 million documents were made accessible. At this rate, it would take 1.2 billion dollars over a 400-year period to complete the process.
No wonder why a recent online article from Governing Magazine said… “It would be wonderful if affordable technology made it easy to quickly upgrade every digital record … But unless lawmakers are willing to allocate millions — maybe billions — to a digital overhaul, ensuring that every Californian can access every document equally isn’t feasible.”
A better alternative
Scribe, an on-site or remote digital service using Augmented Document Remediation technology (ADR) is not only affordable, but quick.
Governmental departments and businesses now can provide print disabled individuals with a Scribe It link to any document on their website.
When that link is clicked, a print disabled individual is immediately presented with an option to download the document in 8 different accessible formats. Access to information is almost instant.
What’s the bottom line?
Scribe would have given print disabled individuals access to all 2.6 million documents, not just 13,000 of them.
It would have taken only a few long days, not 2-years to digitally convert them.
Instead of spending nearly $6 million, California could have spent $300,000 to leverage the power of Scribe.
There’s no need to use accessibility as ransom while holding documents hostage from the public.
Everyone can easily access the information they need, quickly, affordably, anytime they need it.
Accessibility to information is no longer a barrier for print disabled individuals. That in itself is ground breaking news for the accessibility world.
But, millions of documents can be released back to the public, and accessibility is no longer seen as an adversary to their release.
Interested in releasing, or preventing documents from being held hostage?
Or maybe you’re interested in saving literally millions of dollars making information accessible to print disabled individuals?