Let’s start an Accessible Document Revolution

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It’s time to start a movement. An Accessible Document Revolution, if you will.

Protest with a sign reading "Fight for a better tomorrow"

I recently asked a friend who’s blind what they would tell someone who encounters a barrier when requesting accessible documents. I assumed they would have good advice because they receive braille statements and are generally vocal about their need for accessible documents.

Their reply? 

“You’re screwed.”

I was stunned. Why would a federally protected civil right receive such a response from someone who has needed accessible documents their entire life? Because that’s the reality they’ve lived.

The response made me angry for my friend and everyone else who needs accessible versions of standard print documents.

That’s why we need to start an Accessible Document Revolution. It’s time to make accessible documents as common or, at the very least, as expected as standard print.

The inaccessible mindset

Working for a document accessibility company, we hear all sorts of reasons why organizations think they don’t need to provide accessible documents.

The excuse we get most often is that they don’t have blind customers. They think none of their customers have visual disabilities.

You and I know that’s untrue.

Whether they believe their excuse or not, we need to raise our voices so organizations are painfully aware of the need to provide accessible formats.

Close ups of large print, braille, and audio CD

Steps to take

Raising awareness is crucial.

I challenged my friend to dig deeper and come up with an answer we could share to help others. 

Here’s where their brainstorm led.

1. Ask

This step may seem obvious, but it’s the most important. If you don’t start by asking for accessible documents, you’ll never get them.

Your initial ask will likely be to a “front line” employee who has no power. If the organization incorporates accessibility into its business plan, this person may know how to help. Sadly, that’s often not the case.

2. Get the manager

If the first person you ask says no or doesn’t know, ask to speak to the manager. Employees receive so much information in their orientation with the company that there’s a chance the first person you speak to won’t remember the company’s protocol.

3. Take it to corporate

If the manager is no help, or if you’re denied a manager, ask for the phone number and email to the corporate or main office.

Ideally, you’ll get the name of a VP or compliance officer to contact. That may not be possible so start with anyone at the corporate level.

Once you have that information, reach out until you get through to someone who can help. It may take several calls and emails. You may never get through. But, it’s important to continue requesting your accessible documents.

When reaching out, ask about their process for documenting accessibility complaints. Chances are they don’t have one. Bringing it up may push them to finally implement one.

Message inspiration

If you’re not sure what to say, that’s ok! We’ve put together a standard request that you can customize to fit your situation.

To Whom It May Concern:

I am inquiring about receiving my account information, monthly statements and/or customer care materials that your company provides in an accessible format. I have a visual disability, and the documents I currently receive are in a format that I cannot read. Please send all of my materials in the following format: 

[Braille, Large print, Accessible PDF, Audio]

Please contact me at [your preferred contact method such as email address, phone number, or mailing address] if you have any questions about my specific accessible document needs.

Thank you in advance for complying with the federal laws that grant me equal access to information in an accessible format that I can read.

Please send the materials to my address.

[Your address]

[Your name]

Download: Request for Accessible Materials

Looking over the shoulder of someone using a refreshable braille display

4. Enlist help

At some point in your efforts, enlist friends and family to help. They can express their dissatisfaction with an organization that’s excluding people with disabilities.

I’ve heard of sighted friends writing letters to organizations after embarrassing and frustrating experiences in which their blind counterpart was denied accessible versions of their written information. Having your friends with sight chime in shows organizations that these accessibility issues affect more people than they thought.

Whether a letter, phone call, or social campaign, your friends and family can spread the word about the need for accessible documents. 

What works for you?

These ideas are just one person’s. We know you have your tried-and-true methods and we’d love to hear them to share with others.

By sharing your victories, you can help others experience accessible document success.

What are your tips and tricks for successfully requesting accessible documents?
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Accessible Document Revolution

It’s time. Are you with us?

Together we’ll make offering accessible documents as common as print!

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This post was written by Jessica Sanders

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