This reporting project was prioritized by a client's request to ensure that the reports they received met ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance guidelines. The main objective of ADA compliance is that all digital technology (like websites or PDFs) must be accessible to people with disabilities. The criteria ensure that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as anyone else regardless of impairment.
This project's main goal was to make the clients report ADA compliant, but there were also two additional goals. The first was a rebrand. The organization recently went through a merger, which was the perfect opportunity to rebrand our reports. The other goal was a stretch goal to make all of the application documents ADA compliant.
The main challenge of the project was education. I knew ADA standards and implementation practices around the user interface, but I was not well-versed in PDF report compliance. Additionally, our development team did not have any expertise regarding ADA implementation.
I tapped resources within our organization for additional understanding around PDF reports and combined that with my own knowledge of ADA compliance to implement an automated process to this application's reports. Additionally, I designed a branded cover page that would be flexible enough for all of the outputs throughout our platform, which will minimize future development to update the branding.
First, I set up a meeting with the PDF expert from our content department. Lovingly nicknamed PDF Pat, she has spent the last decade creating ADA-compliant PDFs. Pat was very informative and gracious in educating me on making PDFs compliant with Adobe Acrobat.
After meeting with Pat, I reviewed her process to see if it could be automated. I also met with other in-house experts to fully understand any additional user needs or issues. We were lucky to have several former special education teachers on staff.
Regarding the report cover page, I started considering how I could take a templated approach to the design and allow all report content types.
My research led me to develop a concept for how we might proceed. The sections could be inventoried, and a master template created. By tagging the different report structures in the master template, the process could be automated without relying on the user's content.
I took a similar approach to the cover (see below). We could customize the content area per application if the header and footer are fixed for all reports. Additionally, center justifying the titles gave them a more consistent look regardless of text length.
I first reviewed my concept with the Product Managers on my team to evaluate, and they agreed this was a simple and reasonable approach.
Next, I met with the BA and Development. This was their first ADA implementation, so I walk them through Pat's manual process, and then I proposed my concept for automation. I knew Development would need to further plan and analyze. So I made myself available as a subject matter expert and set up a couple of short follow-up meetings to vet the concept more thoroughly from a technical perspective.
Once technology completed their analysis, we recreated a process that leveraged the Adobe Acrobat auto-tagging process and ADA compliance verification through the PDF converter that was already in place in our application.
Although this was a small project, it was very successful. The client shortened this project timeline by a month from our original 90-day deadline. In 60 days, we covered all project requirements and reached the stretch goal of including all reports. Together, the teams were able to accomplish a lot.