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How to publish an inaccessible version of a document

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In an ideal world, every document you publish will be accessible, every step of the way. However, there may be situations where it will make perfect sense to publish a document in an inaccessible format. of those situations:

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  • A version of a document is intended for printing only, and so has been optimized for offset or laser printing (which has caused tradeoffs for accessibility)
  • A strategic decision was taken that having one universal version for everyone would have resulted in strategic communications tradeoffs, and so the document is being published in more than one format, with not all formats being accessible for all
  • The information is being published in more than one format, and for budget reasons it is impractical that all formats be accessible: it is acceptable under most policies and regulations to responsibly point to the accessible alternative
  • There is a need to release the information in a document to part of your audience, yet accessibility has not yet been achieved, and your policy framework allows for releasing the information in an inaccessible format with the accessible version to follow several days later
  • An internal version of a document under development is unfortunately, due to its complexity not yet having been resolved, not yet in accessible format

In such situations, we include a warning in the inaccessible version of the document that it only has limited accessibility, and we also at very least must make it accessible enough that both the warning and the instructions we’ll include that instruct people how to find the accessible equivalent version of the information are available to everyone. Here’s how…

In Office or InDesign or Acrobat Pro…

  1. Add visible text declaring a warning such as “This document does not fully comply with all applicable guidelines for accessible digital documents: for an accessible version, visit [URL], contact info@davidberman or call +1-613-728-6777.” (or, in French, « Ce document n’est pas conforme à toutes les directives applicables pour les documents électroniques accessibles: pour une version accessible, veuillez contacter info@davidberman.com ou appeler +1 613 728 6777. »)
  2. If a PDF file, tag the file if it not already tagged (either during export, or within Acrobat Pro), so that the text in the previous step will be perceivable by assistive technologies.
  3. Put the warning sentence as early as possible within the reading order: make sure that that text appears after the first heading in the reading order, using our usual techniques for reading order (e.g., in InDesign use the Articles panel, in Acrobat Pro use the Content panel and Tags panel).
  4. Put the same warning into the file’s metadata: Make the Subject of the metadata (Comments instead of Subject in earlier Office versions) the same sentence.
  5. Consider adding a warning phrase to the filename as well: for example, if your file was called chat.pdf instead call it “chat(limited-accessibility).pdf” (in French, “chat(accessibilité-limitée).pdf”, or perhaps “chat(limited-accessibility-for-printing-only).pdf”.

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Reviewed January 15, 2019


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