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 report rebranding. The organization also recently went through a merger, which was the perfect opportunity to rebrand the 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 my session with Pat, I reviewed her process to try and figure out how to automate it. I had a similar approach for the report cover page. I started to consider how I can design both aspects of the project and allow various content types.
With the information I gathered, I put together a concept for how we could proceed. I was able to track down a sample template for the application that included all of the various section types within one template. If we could account for and tag structure and not the content, we could implement an automated process.
I took a similar approach to the cover (see below). If the header and footers are fixed for all reports, we could customize the content area per application. Additionally, center justifying the titles allowed them to have a more consistent look regardless of the title 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.
Over the last few years, I have become comfortable leading or following, and this project is a perfect example. Even though this was a small project, it was very successful. It was one of the few projects that we not only achieved everything planned, but we included the stretch goal to include all reports in the application. Plus, the client contacted us three months before the project was due and requested to move up the timeline by a month. To the credit of the Product Managers and the Development team, we were also able to meet that request. The best part is the client was pleased, and the teams worked really well together.