Transcript for BCBS Webinar April 2023
Transcript with Audio Description
[00:00:00.47] So welcome, everybody, to our discussion today on including accessibility in your digital transformation strategy.
[00:00:07.55] Just a little housekeeping before we get rolling into this, if there are questions, please include your questions in the chat box. And at the end of the presentation, we’ve carved out some time to answer questions and to answer anything that you ask.
[00:00:21.98] So for today, I’m David Herr. I’m the Vice President of Enterprise Solutions here at Allyant. I’ve worked in– after a long career that I hate to say how long it was– in IT, I now have worked in accessibility now for going on 12 years. So, well-versed in document accessibility and web accessibility, and I’m excited to be talking to you today.
[00:00:45.47] And I have with me Michael Lambert, who works also in our Enterprise Solutions side of the business. And Michael brings to us a wealth of print experience in addition to IT. So he understands the print industry and the whole where technology is going as stuff transitions from print and mail into the now digital world that we see today. So today, we’ll be your presenters, and we look forward to your questions as we present the material.
[00:01:13.21] Video call.
[00:01:14.41] And of course, Dave’s camera crapped out right before we started the session. So–
[00:01:20.28] –I will be the face. I will be the face of the presentation today. So–
[00:01:27.15] We’ll jump right in it. So today, we just actually wanted to provide a presentation to give folks a better understanding of where accessibility is at, basically the scope of accessibility, the trends that we’re seeing in the industry, and how enterprise organizations are being affected by implementing accessibility regulations, et cetera, and basically, and with kind of the lessons learned with multiple engagements that we’ve had with enterprise organizations over the past few years.
[00:02:03.52] So, we’ll dive right in. If you guys have any questions, feel free to put them in the chat. And we’ll address them along the way, or we can save them til the end. Whichever is more prudent at the time.
[00:02:17.22] So, we’ll start off with some high-level information about the world of digital engagement, because that’s really what’s driving the accessibility standards. Everything’s going online, and we have to make sure that all the content that goes along with that is accessible for all people.
[00:02:35.37] So, as technology evolves, people with disabilities are really accessing a lot of content in new and exciting ways, but the consumer expectations are also evolving. So they’re demanding consistent and inclusive engagement across all aspects of the business they do with you and across all business providers. So you can’t give somebody a really nice statement that’s well-read and inclusively designed and then 99% of the other communications are not. They’re demanding that it be consistent across all levels of engagement within an organization.
[00:03:22.49] And of course, we’ve heard tell of the legislation that’s been expanding to ensure the equitable and inclusive access for all. So, we’ll talk a little further about what 508 compliance is, and WCAG compliance, and all the other buzzwords, and really what the impact is on organizations. But I’m glad to see that the federal, and state, and local governments are stepping up to ensure equitable access to content, not only for consumers, but for employees and coworkers.
[00:04:03.14] And then of course, accessibility is becoming a critical requirement for digital transformation. If we’re forcing everybody to consume content online, then we have to make sure that content can be navigated and can be interpreted by people with disabilities.
[00:04:25.68] Slide, Digital Transformation.
[00:04:28.59] So, the digital transformation– the struggle is real. So, you can see, and we’ve all experienced, an explosion in online content. There’s about a 200% increase in linked content with the real purpose to help people do self-service. So, as we get rid of paper form communications and we drive people to mobile apps and web apps, we have to guide them through these business processes and services.
[00:05:04.01] And the result is there is a ton of content that’s embedded within mobile apps and web apps that needs to be presented to consumers so that they can be serviced, so they can be coached, and improve their wellness through various messagings. So, digital notifications are also up 200%, and this is probably since 2020, these numbers. And we can talk offline where I got these numbers and what my source was for these percentages.
[00:05:44.95] But the fact remains that these notifications that you get from emails, text messages, mobile messages– just think of how many messages per week you get from your phone provider, or your insurance, or utilities, et cetera. We’re just being bombarded. And all of those messages, texts, emails, mobile messages all need to be accessible.
[00:06:14.51] And then transactional communications. The overall volume of transactional communications has remained pretty consistent. We’re not getting five more explanation of benefits per month. We get the same amount of interactive and service-level communications that we have been getting. But the distribution of those communications is changing dramatically.
[00:06:38.94] So, whereas in 2020, about 28% of people got digital transactional communications only. And in 2022, that average went up 10% to 38%, and they’re anticipating by 2024 that 46% of consumers will only receive digital communications. Now, there is a mix people who get print and digital mix, but that number is dropping, as well. The overall print volume is dropping dramatically.
[00:07:17.50] Slide, The industry is evolving.
[00:07:20.41] So, the industry is evolving, and the print mail trends are– I saw the report from the USPS that they lost 4.3% in volume in the fourth quarter of 2022, which at the end of the year, is typically their highest peak volumes with holiday communications and year end communications. But they’re anticipating yet another almost 5% decline in volume for first quarter of 2023. They’re already on track to do that.
[00:08:01.65] So, you can see that the trend is actually going that way. And of course, we all know why that’s happening. The consumable costs, paper, postage, et cetera, supply chain and labor issues, and all the other things that kind of spiraled at the end of COVID.
[00:08:20.94] Braille statements, in general, are also declining due to digital alternatives. And that’s a good thing. I mean, there are still some older recipients who still prefer Braille, and we have to offer Braille services, but there are some really good screen readers, et cetera, for the visually impaired folks as an alternative.
[00:08:47.49] And many people don’t really know this, but you take 401(k) statement, for example, it’s maybe 6 pages that you get mailed to you. That’s not six pages worth of Braille. A 6 page 401(k) statement is probably more like 30 pages of Braille. So it’s really not the best medium to send those types of statements to visually impaired folks. So the digital alternatives are kind of winning over on that.
[00:09:19.17] Having said that, we have seen an increase in the use of Braille for other applications. You can see some ads for credit cards and debit cards, which now that they don’t have the raised numbers on the cards, they’re completely flat, it’s difficult for people to determine is this my credit card or my debit card? So they’re using physical cues like notches at the end of the card, like a diamond or a check mark, to say, OK, the check mark is my checking card and the diamond is my credit card. So they’re using Braille and Braille constraints in other capacities.
[00:10:04.38] Think about if you were staying at a hotel and you got a card key for your room, but it’s flat. It’s smooth, so I don’t even know if it’s a credit card, my driver’s license, or the room key. So maybe even so much as just doing a Braille folder that the card could be slipped into– so like I said, Braille is being used in more abstract manners to help the visually impaired folks. So Braille as an industry is not going away. The overall statement volume of Braille is declining, but it’ll never go away.
[00:10:46.69] Reflowed large print is actually increasing. As boomers get older and people– and I’m one of those– people getting older, their visibility is not as good, and they appreciate the large print. Many argue that you can view this stuff online. OK, well, if it’s online and it’s accessible, great. And even if not, I can make the screen bigger so that I can see the content better.
[00:11:17.89] That’s great, but a lot of the boomers still like to print. So they view it online, but they print it, and it’s back to the small print. So even having options do reflowed large print as a downloadable PDF option so they can print at home might be a happy medium for folks to provide reflowed large print services without actually going through the print-to-mail process. Not trying to solve it, just trying to highlight some of the trends in the industry.
[00:11:53.38] Slide, The digital revolution.
[00:11:55.82] Any questions so far? Any answers? All right. So, this is a digital revolution, and of course, at the heart of it is advanced engagement services. So, everybody has seen the drastic increase in applications and interfaces to provide online banking, financial investments, education, school– my kids go to college. More than half of their classes are all online, and all of the textbooks, et cetera, are all online. Utilities, telehealth, it’s all centered around automated self-service.
[00:12:40.04] So, as these things increase, you can see the importance of accessibility as a critical success factor to these platforms. Not even so much for people with disabilities, just as a customer experience advantage. You have to read every single thing from every provider that you do business with these days. You have to read everything online. So if it makes it easier to interpret the information, or to consume that, or get guidance then that’s a benefit.
[00:13:19.79] Same thing with the use of online forms is drastically increasing. Smart interfaces, mobile apps, web apps, doing these journeys and events to guide people in the use of artificial intelligence and machine language to drive the automation and to drive the self-service is really gone through the roof. Chat bots, IVRs even have turned the corner and becoming more useful and productive. All with the objective to provide more proactive coaching.
[00:13:57.60] This is actually happening. I mean, we’ve been talking about proactive coaching and trans-promotional messaging for 25 or 30 years, and it really hasn’t happened. But in the last two or three years, it’s really starting to turn a corner that people are getting the same level of engagement and services through automated interfaces that they used to have to go to places in person or talk to somebody on the phone to get the same level of support. Now it’s automated. It’s finally happening.
[00:14:34.32] So, the level of analytics, customer data profiling, AI has helped to drive the decision making and is really providing a new level of health and wellness guidance. And that’s kind of blanket across most of the industries. And that’s good news. It’s good news for the new services, but we still have to talk about, what do we do with the rest of the legacy infrastructure that we’re tagging along with us?
[00:15:03.54] Slide, Customer Experience.
[00:15:05.87] So, along with the technology expectations, the customer experience is changing. So, the customer expectation on experience is changing. So, the expectations are increasing. And 69% of people expect that the brand, as it relates to accessibility consistency, is consistent, meaning, don’t show me a really nice statement, but everything else that I look at is not up to par. Or here’s one good application, but the other seven applications are old school.
[00:15:47.86] So they’re expecting consistency across your brand, as a company, to deem you competitive or a good customer experience. And kind of weird anomaly here, with audio and video– like, the use of audio and video has been kind of flat. I mean, it’s still there. Some customers are moving forward with it. But 92% of consumers want a common engagement across different providers, meaning if I have a certain pattern or practice to go look at my monthly phone bill, I want it to be the same to go look at my monthly insurance bill, for just out-of-the-blue examples here.
[00:16:41.02] So, doing a special process for one to go look at a video and then doing PDF read-out-loud for the rest of them, I’m probably going to not visit the video that much and just go to the read-aloud PDF version of the statement, because that’s what the common practice is across most of the providers I engage with.
[00:17:09.34] So, the experience competition landscape– basically, the competition for the experience, people equate the level of communication equals the level of competency for that company. So, when they engage companies that have a high level of communication, and they are giving you notifications just in time, and the communications are well-designed and articulated, they see that as you’re a competent service provider.
[00:17:44.05] So, if you’re providing legacy information in a hard-to-use format, it just puts a bad perception that you’re not a competent service provider. Even though you might have the best product on the market, just because of the communication level, that’s their interface with you, and that leaves a bad taste in their mouth.
[00:18:08.66] Slide, An evolving ecosystem.
[00:18:11.33] It is an evolving ecosystem. So, especially inside organizations, we see patterns and trends that the skills inside most enterprise organizations are increasing. So, they’re getting in tune with inclusive design, and have established remediation services to help their web and mobile apps, and marketing content, and corporate communications, and all the other things that consumers engage with. And they’re doing a pretty decent job of stepping up to the plate and making sure that they have those skill sets in house.
[00:18:49.34] Their digital expertise is actually pretty good. Web and mobile app, applying inclusive design, is actually on point in most organizations. The web and the mobile apps aren’t really the big issue, because there’s only a finite number of websites and mobile apps that a company will have. You have a couple, right?
[00:19:16.13] How many legacy applications do you have? Thousands. That’s the problem. So they can do a good job on the web and mobile apps, because there’s a finite number of things that they have to focus on, and that’s achievable. It’s the rest of the enterprise that really is lagging.
[00:19:34.83] So, the last dot point there, the transactional communications. We were talking to some folks just the other day on Monday, and they go, yeah, we have 8,000 business applications that produce transactional communications. That’s a lot. And they were like, where do we even start? So, they have so many, and they’re still not compliant.
[00:20:00.53] And then talk about the stuff that’s producing output and content on a daily basis. What about all the archived content? That’s not even close to being compliant with the new ADA laws and regulations.
[00:20:18.26] Slide, A NEW Enterprise Focus, a bullet point list.
[00:20:22.21] So, there’s a new enterprise focus, the winds of change. So, people are developing these new accessibility teams, so ADA-focused about accessibility, diversity, equity, and inclusion. Legal and procurement groups are on board, making sure that they’re enforcing governance and compliance with the latest and greatest regulations and that they only do business with people who abide by those policies and regulations, as well.
[00:20:53.26] Operations teams are providing accessible communications and delivery services. So, providing Braille, and reflowed large print, and making sure that PDFs are compliant with 508 and WCAG regulations, and the lines of businesses are developing new approaches for consumer engagement moving forward. And really, that’s kind of where we see accessibility, customer communications management, and customer experience management all coming together.
[00:21:33.90] For example, why do we have a 6 page 401(k) statement? I keep picking on 401(k). A six page explanation of benefits. How’s that for the healthcare people out there? Why am I sending somebody a six page explanation of benefits every month, and how did that all come about, and really, what’s the direction that we’re going to communicate with members moving forward digitally?
[00:22:04.09] So, we created the five page or six page EOB, because we were sending you a piece of mail, we paid for the postage, and sticking one or two more sheets of paper into the envelope was really not much more cost. So, it ended up being this complex once-a-month communication for the member.
[00:22:28.36] But if the new concept is to communicate people through digital channels, and we may communicate with you two or three times a month, maybe the design will be to put one or two paragraphs or objects of information with links to other pieces of information to reduce the complexity of the communication and to engage the consumer more often to build a better relationship.
[00:23:03.03] So, if the long term design is to engage more frequently digitally, maybe we won’t be designing five page explanation of benefits anymore. Maybe we won’t be designing a five page 401(k) statement anymore. That’s why I’m saying we have to rethink how we engage consumers moving forward and try to get out of the old practices that we’ve been engaged with for so many years.
[00:23:36.23] So, I’m going to take a breather here, and I’m going to turn it back over to Dave. If you guys have any questions, we can take some here, or we can wait till the end. If Dave, you don’t have any–
[00:23:52.09] I’m not seeing anything in the chat, so let’s keep going.
[00:23:54.31] Slide, Welcome to Accessibility.
[00:23:56.74] OK. All right, so– [INAUDIBLE] Go ahead.
[00:24:02.09] We talked about the print and the digital transformation strategies of things that are happening. So, let’s talk a little bit now about accessibility. And for the sake of people that aren’t as familiar with the term, we’ll kind of talk about what goes around accessibility, and then what it means, and then take it from there.
[00:24:25.28] So, we got to start with disabilities, because I think, traditionally, you know– I’m 58 years old, so growing up as a young child, if somebody was in a wheelchair, OK, I can understand that. Or somebody is blind or somebody that’s deaf– we think of those as traditionally as, Oh, those are the only disabilities. But disabilities is far broader and far more expansive. And as I get older, I certainly relate to it much, much more.
[00:24:53.74] But it’s a physical or a mental impairment that limits your life activities or can limit your life activities. And I think the thing that’s always struck me as being interesting about this is that– I never really thought about this, but they can be permanent, they can be temporary, or they can be situational. I can not have a physical disability but then I could break my hip, and now I’m in a wheelchair for a period of time. So now I’m going to now be using some of the services that somebody that lives in a wheelchair would be using.
[00:25:26.63] So it can become temporary, or it can become something that’s situational in your life. So it’s not just something necessarily you’re born with, but it can be something that can affect all of us throughout our lifetimes. And I think people don’t realize the extent that it’s 15% of the world’s population, it’s over a billion people, that have some form of a disability.
[00:25:47.36] So it’s not a small group. It is your customers. You do have customers, if you’re doing business in the world, that possibly have a disability. So, you want to be sure that your corporate communications are reaching all of your audience.
[00:26:02.19] Slide, Types of Disabilities, bullet point list.
[00:26:05.83] So, just real quick, I won’t read these to you, but the whole gambit of disabilities– there are so many beyond some of the ones that I said that were traditional. And they all affect our communications. So, if your use of color, for example, in some corporate communications is the only means of conveying information, which is one of the WCAG requirements, is to make sure that you’re not using use of color as the only way to convey information.
[00:26:34.75] So, if I can’t see the color red, and you’re telling me that my statement, if it’s in red, that’s a negative number, I’m not going to know that. So you’re not going to be able to communicate with me. So it’s not just blindness, it’s beyond that, the other areas of visual, the other areas of learning disabilities. Dyslexia being a very common learning disability that you need to think about in communications in the design of your website, some of the tools that can be added to websites to make them more accessible to people with learning disabilities.
[00:27:05.49] And then some of the other physical ones, hearing, language, access points, things like that. So, disabilities are very broad, it’s a wide gambit. And I think, as time goes on, accessibility of communications is continuing to expand to address the needs of a broader and broader audience. And as people are living longer, that’s going to just continue.
[00:27:28.01] Slide, Business obligation, bullet point list.
[00:27:32.18] So, there’s a couple of things. There’s legal and there’s obligation on the business side. So, we’ll talk about the obligations first. So I mean, there is laws in state, federal, local, provinces of Europe with our Canadian friends up north, and various laws around the world around accessibility.
[00:27:54.50] Here in the US, it used to be, way back, it was Section 508. And you had to meet the federal requirements for Section 508. And many organizations would say, Well, we don’t accept federal funds, so we’re not held to Section 508, so it doesn’t apply to us. So their websites would continue to be inaccessible, because they weren’t forced to do so.
[00:28:17.09] All that’s changed really in the last five or six years. When I first got into this industry in 2012, you would talk to people, and that’s what I would always hear was, we’re not under 508, so we don’t have worry about it. And later on in the last four or five years, the Department of Justice has been looking more at accessibility as being more of an ADA issue and not a Section 508 issue.
[00:28:43.59] So, the ADA applies to everyone, every business, every organization. And when it first started out, it was like, hey, you’re building a building, and if I can’t get my wheelchair up into your building, you’ve got to build a wheelchair ramp, or you’ve got to have Braille on the elevators, or you have to have some of these other accessibility things to your physical building to allow people to do business with you, to come in to your store, or office, or your work place of business.
[00:29:10.55] Well, what happened was the courts started interpreting ADA as also meaning your digital place of doing business, thus your website. So, that was the big transition is as businesses went from physical, then they went from my physical place of business, where you come to buy my car, to now, I buy my car online through Carvana or something like that. That’s now your digital place of business. And because of that, that now has to be fully accessible, as well.
[00:29:42.60] So, that transition over the last couple of years has really kind of put everybody, whether you’re an agency, federal agency, government agency, a for-profit business or a nonprofit, pretty much all of us are under the ADA laws. And so, we now have to think about that in our communications.
[00:30:01.22] And then, of course, there’s the global laws, as well. The EU has many, Australia has many, Canada, many countries around the world. And in some cases, you say, well, that’s just the EU. Why would that apply to me? But when you look at GDPR, for example, that law, even though it’s an EU requirement, affects your communications if you’re dealing with people around the world, where your personal information– you know, you have rights. And that’s what their law complies.
[00:30:27.84] So accessibility is sort of in that same realm. It’s broader than just maybe what you’re doing in your particular countries. So you need to think about it from a communications standpoint, especially as the world has gotten smaller, and our clients are now all over the world.
[00:30:41.04] Slide, Business risk.
[00:30:43.48] So, from a business risk standpoint, I mean sadly, in the United States, it seems like the one that seems to push people the hardest is the legal aspect of all of this. And we keep seeing new numbers. This is a new number we just saw on somebody’s research the other day that there were like 20,000 new lawsuits filed in the last year. So it’s a large number.
[00:31:06.36] We’ve been seeing a lot of the states in the US that have been passing accessibility legislation. California was well-known for the AB 434, where they started pushing their agencies to have the CIO of each agency has to publish on their website a letter of conformance saying that their website is accessible, and it’s reviewed every year. And I think this year in July is when it becomes enforceable. So they did it voluntarily for a couple of years, and now there will actually be penalties if your website and your website communications is not accessible in state of California.
[00:31:40.62] We’re seeing similar legislation now in Colorado coming to the surface, in New York, and Florida, and Tennessee, and some other states that are rapidly looking at accessibility, not just on the federal level but on the state level. There’s been a lot of stuff on the federal side, as well, as the agencies, and the government, and Department of Justice is getting more serious around accessibility.
[00:32:02.25] And what’s the impact? The impact is if you are in a lawsuit– and there were some famous ones against Domino’s Pizza and some others. The legal costs for Domino’s Pizza to defend themselves against their inaccessible website, even if the final verdict was not that somebody was awarded millions of dollars, but their legal costs were millions of dollars to defend that case.
[00:32:25.05] And they ultimately lost the case, and they lost their name in the industry from many standpoints who have fought against making their website accessible to their consumers. So it’s just a great thing to do. You want to make your website accessible, and your content accessible, and your communications.
[00:32:45.52] And one other thing I would add to that is don’t think in terms of just the end consumer. It’s the workers. Are you saying that you can’t have a visually impaired call center operator? So that means that all content that a consumer would see, a worker has to see or access, as well. So all the internal business applications, anything for customer service or customer care centers, all of that information that they see and the applications that they access it via have to be ADA compliant.
[00:33:24.29] Slide, The rubber meets the road, Practical approaches.
[00:33:28.29] So, now we’re going to get to where the rubber meets the road.
[00:33:30.84] Slide, Where to start.
[00:33:33.95] So, where to start? Accessibility is a big topic. We basically said it. It has a part of everything in the world. So where do we start?
[00:33:44.80] We’ve got to create a baseline. So, you’ve got to scan and test your business applications, your web and mobile interfaces. And there’s all kinds of tools out there that can do that and crawl through your apps and let you know whether you’re compliant or not.
[00:34:00.35] And then the next thing is you have to scan and test all your content. So, all of your financial reports, your manuals, your policies, your anything that’s embedded content within the web and mobile apps or your business apps, documents, PDFs, et cetera. And then the archived content, because it’s not just applicable to stuff that’s created from here forward. It’s everything that you’ve ever produced. That’s a big ask.
[00:34:36.03] So, you have to create an inventory, list all the different types of– you don’t have to, but we recommend you creating that inventory. Listing all the different types of content, identify what is compliant and what’s not compliant, and that basically is going to create your to-do list.
[00:34:53.82] Slide, Beyond content.
[00:34:55.53] But beyond the content– so that’s great. We identified this percentage of our existing content is already good to go, and the other needs some work. So, we have to evaluate the skills and the services that you have available. So, inventory your internal skill sets. Do you have people that can actually do that type of work? Do you have tools, and do you have best practices so that we’re not repeating these mistakes moving forward? So, let’s get the best practices going for anything new, while we work on remediating what’s already in place.
[00:35:34.37] So, we have to ensure that the digital and physical communications, the web and mobile interfaces comply with the regulations and work with assistive technologies like screen readers, et cetera. And then, service offerings include Braille and reflowed large print, which are common offerings for visually impaired people beyond who don’t want to take advantage of the digital interfaces.
[00:36:03.70] And assess the ability and capacity to remediate the legacy. Like, do you have people or the time in the week to go back and to fix this problem? Do you have the skills to create new inclusive design documents? Like Dave was saying, the right use of color. Maybe pie charts and graphs aren’t appropriate anymore. Maybe we have to find different ways to communicate that type of information. And then, define those best practices for moving forward.
[00:36:42.74] Slide, First things first.
[00:36:44.69] So, first things first, we have to take a more holistic approach. And most organizations, or a lot of organizations, have created what is either an ADA department or an accessibility program. And this is important, because it assigns ownership within the organization, and somebody is on the hook to make sure that somebody is working on this in earnest. And it needs to be coordinated on multiple fronts.
[00:37:13.16] So, even in our presentation, we were talking about the web people, the mobile people, business application people, tons of lines of businesses, corporate communications, marketing. It’s going to be a coordinated effort across many different lines of businesses and in organizations within an enterprise. So it needs to have centralization, and visibility, and ownership.
[00:37:39.25] You got to create that asset inventory of the content, tools, skills, capacity, partners. Prioritize these efforts on risk, cost, time, time to market versus reality, right? So, here’s a good example. When we talk to a lot of people about accessibility, especially in the customer communication space, transactional communications, their first reaction is, oh, let’s fix that up front. Let’s fix that upstream in the composition application, because that’s the best way to fix a problem.
[00:38:16.24] And we would agree 100% with that strategy. So, yes, it’s always best to fix things at its source. So, then we ask them, how many applications do you have? 8,000. OK. Let’s say that it takes one week to remediate an application. And in the real world, the reality check, how long does it take to change the 800 number on the back side of the EOB? A couple of months.
[00:38:42.55] It’s not overly complex, but the business review process, the production move-up process, it takes a while. But let’s say it’s one week to fix an application, and you have 8,000 applications. That’s 153 years. That’s when you’ll be compliant. So it’s just not a practical time-to-market versus reality.
[00:39:06.88] You’re going to have to have a holistic approach to fix the problem. We have new approaches to address this. And then the communication strategy overall, inclusive design at the heart of it. But I think we need to start thinking about new approaches to engage consumers. And maybe these complex statements and transactional correspondences may not be the right direction long term.
[00:39:41.63] So, if we’re going to take the time to re-engineer or remediate an application, let’s put some thought into what would be a good use of this communication tool three years from now or five years from now? And what are we actually trying to get the consumer to do with that information?
[00:40:05.62] So, the path forward, you got to create your own roadmap.
[00:40:08.76] So, the accessibility program, do the assessment, do a plan, and start the remediation, and make sure we have some wise best practices moving forward. And you might have those skill sets internally, and it might be good to get some outside help to plan what the best practices are as they see it across the industry and across multiple industries, actually. It might give you a better idea on what to do moving forward.
[00:40:43.84] So, how Allyant can help. So, I’ll turn it back over to Dave.
[00:40:48.27] Absolutely. So, you know, Allyant’s a new company, but we came together from three established organizations in the accessibility space. So, it’s T-Base Communications, Accessible360, and CommonLook. And our three companies are focused on accessibility. Our tagline is “Seamless. Simple. Accessibility.” It’s around making solutions achievable for clients to be able to ensure that their communications are available to everyone. So that’s really the goal.
[00:41:24.01] So, from an Allyant standpoint, how can we help? How can we help you? What can we offer to allow you to work in this space and to get results?
[00:41:33.25] So, we’ve kind of put together our solutions around the areas of our expertise and the known issues, and we’ll be continuing to add to our portfolio over time. But audit and assessment. So, we just talked about several scenarios. You got 8,000 templates, or you’ve got 100,000 PDF documents on your website, or a million, or several million files sitting in archives of digital data of people’s statements from 5 years ago that you have to keep online for 7 years. I mean, those kinds of things.
[00:42:04.12] So, we have the ability, through several of our divisions of our organization, to do audits. So, we can audit your website, we can audit your web applications, we can audit your stores of PDF documents, and then assess the accessibility of your web assets, of your documents, of your content, and then give you solutions around how to approach that problem.
[00:42:30.51] The 8,000 templates or the 100,000 PDFs– We help organizations establish priorities. So you’re not going to do all 100,000 files all at once, but you may do all the files that have been accessed the most recently in the last year or so, and do those first and then work on the older legacy files.
[00:42:50.64] Or this is a good time to take a look at, does this content still need to be on our website, or can we just remove it? If it’s now past the time that we don’t need to store it anymore, perhaps we remove it. There’s no reason to have inaccessible content out there to give people that unequal experience when they access your website. So, audit and assessment are some of the solutions that Allyant can bring.
[00:43:12.78] Secondly, we can do remediation and print accessibility solutions. So, if you’re familiar with CommonLook, we’ve been well-known for many, many years around PDF accessibility and PDF accessibility remediation. So, whether it’s one file or 100,000 files, we have a large team of experienced PDF remediation specialists that can create accessible PDFs and give you compliance reports for all of your documents.
[00:43:39.87] And on the print side, on the T-Base side of our organization, we’ve been very much the leader in Braille and large print, reflowed large print, and e-text, and other formats that are really the print side of accessibility. So, a customer asks you for their statement but they would like it in Braille, or they’d like it in large reflowed print, those are all things that we can provide for you. We can do that on an enterprise level. So we can analyze through our secure data center all of your statements and the ones that have been flagged as needing to be printed in Braille or large print, we can accommodate that for you in our secured data centers.
[00:44:19.53] The third thing that Allyant can bring to this table here to help you is around software tools. So, we’ve had software tools for many years under the CommonLook brand for PDF remediation, the CommonLook PDF tool being one of the flagship tools for document remediation and getting compliance reports. We have a free tool called CommonLook PDF Validator that anyone can download for free. That is the reporting side of CommonLook PDF. So, if you want to test your documents to determine if they are accessible or not, we can accommodate that with a free tool.
[00:44:52.21] And then, we have tools for remediating and creating accessible content out of Microsoft Word. We have an online tool for creating accessible PDFs and some other formats around accessibility that can be used. You can upload documents to this tool, make them accessible, and then download them. And then we have our scanning software and other pieces.
[00:45:11.70] And then on the enterprise side, we’ll talk a little more about on the enterprise side. Many organizations come to us, and their problems are, look, we’ve got our website under control. We’ve made it accessible. We’ve taken our marketing materials that are on our website, and we made those PDFs accessible. So we think we have a good handle on our accessibility.
[00:45:31.73] And then they discover that, oh, yeah, our statements, our invoices, the other documents that we generate from our enterprise tools, they’re old. They’re legacy tools that generate high volumes of documents. And that statement, we used to print it and mail it, and now we’re moving towards digital and putting it in archives, putting it in customer portals, and, oh, yeah, all that’s not accessible, and our backend tools can’t make it accessible. What do we do? We know that’s a major liability.
[00:45:59.94] So great. We found the customer, our website’s accessible, they’re excited to do business with us. And the first time we bill them, we send them now inaccessible content. So, it’s a problem, and it’s something that we have solutions to address that we’ll go into here in a couple of minutes.
[00:46:14.06] And then finally, what we bring to the table is the expertise to help you as a client and us partner to develop proven solutions. We’ve been doing this for over 22 years. And so we have a lot of experience, a lot of knowledge. And combined, the three companies really bring a strong partner to the table to work with you.
[00:46:33.94] Slide, In a world of technology.
[00:46:36.98] So, you know, I was talking earlier, and Michael alluded to some of this as well, as we all moved, and our technology has advanced, and our tools have gotten more advanced, there’s expectations now that communications are much more seamless. And the good news is that many customer communication management type tools will produce accessible content. You can go into them and set them up to add tags to documents so that they work with assistive technology, so they’ll work with a screen reader, and function with compliant documents that are accessible to your users.
[00:47:14.77] The problem is, what we found is that many organizations either haven’t set them up correctly, or the tools, while they’ll provide the tags, they don’t provide any ways or means to do testing of the documents. It’s really up to the creator of the document, whoever composes the document in the composition tool that you’re using to create the content, to set it up properly to tag the document.
[00:47:41.30] So, without having that knowledge and without having that experience, many times these things are set up as incompliant. Or they’re very old, and they’re so old that they don’t support tagging at all. And they’re not scheduled to be replaced for another five years. So what are you going to do about that?
[00:47:56.84] So, the good news is that in this world of technology, there are solutions to fix the files, and they can be fixed post composition. So, you don’t have to remove and yank your existing composition tools. You can keep your existing workflows, as far as how your files are being created and transmitted throughout the organization. But before they’re either put into that archive or set up with email links for clients to go download and retrieve their e-statement or whatever it is, that can be run against some software that we have around the automation space.
[00:48:32.54] So, we’ve automated the accessibility space around those documents that are built from these templates, built from these composition systems, to allow those documents to have proper tagging, to meet the accessibility requirements, and work well for your clients in whatever they’re using to consume the content. Whether that’s JAWS, the screen reader, or they’re using other assistive technology, that document will now be able to be used in the same way that everyone else would use, say, a print document.
[00:49:03.59] The other component that we need to think about as well is many times– in fact, I see it from most of my insurance providers, and my 401(k) vendors, and things like that– are preference and consent tools. So, I get an email saying, hey, we’re now moving– We don’t have to mail you your statement anymore. Would you like us to send it to you electronically or send you the link to our portal to be able to access it? And it’s like, sure, that’s great.
[00:49:31.77] But you need to start thinking about, for those tools, you should also be giving your consumers the ability to ask for that content now in whatever format they need it in, because I think more and more, you’re going to see more of your clients are going to ask for it. Yes, I do want it electronic, but I’d like it in reflowed large print, or maybe I do need it in Braille, or maybe I do need it in another format. So, not only having these systems in place to say, hey, I’d like it electronic, but this is how I would like it electronic. And then have the capability to be able to offer that to your clients.
[00:50:08.40] Capacity’s the big thing. Having been in this space as a company over 22 years, volume is always the big concern. So, when somebody comes to us with a couple hundred PDF documents, sure, we can easily remediate that. Get that back to you in a couple of days, and everything’s great.
[00:50:26.67] When I’ve got like 10,000, 100,000, a million, 100 million transactional documents annually that we generate as a company, being able to handle that kind of capacity, you’re not going to do it through the traditional means. You’re probably not going to be able to do manual remediation, obviously, for that.
[00:50:46.56] It’s going to be difficult sometimes to make that an on-demand thing, where somebody asks for it, and then you’ve got to build a secondary workflow so everyone can retrieve their statement today right now online. Oh, you have a disability. Oh, you have to ask for it now in the accessible format. Oh, you can’t have it for five days, because we have to send it out to our provider to get it taken care of. So, having the capacity to build solutions that are going to give your customers the best customer experience, deal with the high volumes, and not cause unnecessary delays is all stuff that you want to consider as you’re looking for your solutions around this.
[00:51:27.73] And then finally, let’s say you made your current statements accessible, and you’ve made your other content accessible, and you’ve offered alternative formats, and you’ve done all these other wonderful things. But the archive of the last five years of their information is not accessible. And that’s in a format that– how are you going to deal with that? And maybe perhaps you won’t fix all of that all at once. Maybe that will be on-demand. But coming up with solutions not only for your current and future content, but for your legacy content, are all things to consider around this space.
[00:51:58.90] Slide, Accessibility focused, bullet point list.
[00:52:03.04] So, to wrap it up, and then I do see we have some questions here, which is great. We’re enterprise focused. That’s really what Allyant brings to the table. We’re around accessibility completely. We are and want to be your accessibility partner. And I believe that we have a very broad range of services and solutions to be able to achieve that and to give you the best possible solution.
[00:52:26.50] So with that, let’s go to the question section. And I’ll read the questions off, Michael, and we can go through them one at a time.
[00:52:34.79] I can answer them. Of course, we do.
[00:52:37.29] Of course, we do.
[00:52:40.82] So, I got a question here about the California legislation and what kind of entities that it applies to. And my understanding that AB 434, so that would be the California legislation, only applies to California State agencies. So, I don’t think it applies to local communities, and counties, and anything like that.
[00:53:07.25] It may transition down that if you take money from the California agencies and maybe there’s some contingencies in that. But my understanding is that particular law in California is only covered under the state agencies at the state level. But that still doesn’t mean that you’re not under the federal ADA and other requirements. So Michael–
[00:53:29.18] And also, if you have customers outside of the state of California, and their state-level legislation ADA laws, they apply. So, it’s not just where you do business from, it’s where your consumers and your workers are located, as well. Whatever the local state requirements are in effect.
[00:53:56.84] Excellent. So, then the second question was comment and then a question. It said, “I noticed that the automatic live captioning has improved drastically. I’m watching it right now, and it’s very impressive. I recall a few years back when auto captions were not legally considered accessible, so contracting with manual captioning services was or is required. However, at this point, it seems auto captions are good or possibly better than a person providing the service. Do you know of any changes regarding legal captioning requirements for public entities, such as local government?”
[00:54:23.72] And you’re absolutely right, Michael, that the technology has gotten drastically better than it was. We still, when we record our webinars, we still send them out to a captioning company just to make certain that they’re fully accessible before we share them with everybody. But for the live component, we are using what I believe Zoom has provided.
[00:54:46.28] So, as far as legal captioning for public entities, such as local government, required to use a technology like Zoom’s providing or someone else’s service, I’m not aware. That’s probably going to vary by your region, or your state, or where you’re at.
[00:55:07.71] All right, so next question was just, “Is there a difference between Section 508 and WCAG?” And there is and there isn’t. It’s kind of an independent question. The Section 508 is the federal requirement for web accessibility of federal government agencies. The federal law then calls upon to prove compliance that you’ll meet one of the WCAG standards.
[00:55:35.94] And the early version of Section 508, the original version, was for WCAG 1.0, which shows you how old the law was. And they recently updated it, I believe it was 2017, to now comply with WCAG 2.0. And of course, the standards continue to advance. So WCAG 2.1 AA is the current standard that most organizations, and it’s the most current of the versions of the W3C’s standards requirements. And they’re about to release WCAG 2.2.
[00:56:10.95] And all that means is they continue to add to the list of checkpoints that we need to go through in content for it to be considered fully accessible. And so what I mean by that is in WCAG 2.1, they’ve added more checkpoints to make certain that its content is more readily available to people with, say, cognitive disabilities like dyslexia. So, there are some checkpoints for checking content that you’re not causing problems that would affect accessibility. So WCAG 2.1 AA at the moment is the most current version of the WCAG standards.
[00:56:52.20] And there was question about what was the versions of our testing tool. So, currently right now, we do not have a Mac version of CommonLook Validator. So, it is PC-based, unfortunately. And a lot of people have asked that. And we don’t, at the moment, have a cloud-based version of the validation tool. That may be something that we’ll be working on in the future, and we’ll be sure to keep everybody posted. There’ll be a lot of announcements about that if we get to that point. But I know it’s been discussed. A lot of people have asked.
[00:57:24.38] Have another question about our automation capabilities for accessible file-on-demand. What kind of turnaround time is reasonable? That’s a good question. The turnaround time, typically, for if somebody sends us files for remediation is about five business days. And we do have a rush service available if somebody needs it quicker than that. It is also volume-based. So if you dropped on us 100,000 files, you’re not going to get those back in five days. But we quote the time frames upon receipt of the file. So, five business days is the standard for most requests.
[00:58:04.03] Was the question on manual remediation or automated remediation?
[00:58:08.74] Oh, you know what? You’re right. It was automation. I apologize for that. So, it was, “Automation capabilities allow for accessible files on-demand?” Well, the beauty of that is if you’re using automation capabilities, it’s going to be instantaneous, practically speaking.
[00:58:27.83] So, in other words, if the file is run against the automation technology, it’s going to be delivered back in seconds, or however fast the system that it’s running on is going to be, to provide that tagged output. So, it’s not something being sent to somebody to go do that manual remediation that I spoke of. The five days, that would not be the case.
[00:58:47.53] So here’s the thing. It’ll probably run at about five pages a second. So, that’s really where you get into, well, gee, should we just do on-demand for everything, or should we build things that are compliant and store them that way? Well, it all depends on how many concurrent requests for on-demand you think you’ll get.
[00:59:09.38] So, at the end of the month, when the new statement comes out and you have 1,000 people asking for their statement simultaneously, you’re going to have to do 5,000 pages a second to meet the SLA for the presentment SLAs, right? So, that’s why we have to talk through these things. But anything can be scaled.
[00:59:33.11] Thank goodness for the cloud.
[00:59:35.51] And we’re just about out of time, but there’s one last quick question. It just said, “We’re a vacation option with multiple dining and entertainment options within. What assistive technologies exist to interpret live shows?” And really, a live show, there’s going to be various things that can be done. Typically, you’ll have somebody that could do sign language that could provide for people that are deaf that aren’t going to be to listen to the show.
[01:00:03.92] But as far as a live entertainment venue, I would probably want to talk to some of our digital folks on the digital team here at Allyant. And maybe have more details about how that can be accommodated. But the only one I’m aware of right now would be to have somebody doing sign language.
[01:00:21.08] So with that, we are out of time. This is recorded, so we will be sending this out to everyone that attended or signed up for the webinar. We appreciate your time today. And we look forward to talking to you in the future. And please reach out if you have any questions. Thank you very much.
[01:00:37.99] Thank you.