How to Find the Right PDF Remediation Firm

 In Articles, PDF Accessibility
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What differentiates PDF remediation firms?

Not all PDF remediation is created equal

Recently there has been a measurable increase in the demand for PDF document remediation for accessibility and ADA compliance. This increased demand has prompted a surge in vendors jumping into the market to claim their piece of the pie. Several new companies are promoting their “expertise” in providing accessible PDF documents, even if their skill level is limited at best. We know this is true as we are seeing samples from other vendors and are being brought in to correct their work.

The current legal landscape does not help. Lawsuits are pressuring organizations for a quick fix to their accessibility issues on their websites and digital files. While web accessibility has been a priority for organizations for many years, when it comes to document accessibility, many people do not have the knowledge or understanding to properly vet vendors. In turn, they do not know for sure that they are getting what they paid for. In the case of document accessibility, choosing the lowest price could be a huge mistake if these remediation services do not verify compliance, leaving you legally liable for accessibility issues.

In 2019, CommonLook celebrates its 20th year as the leader in PDF accessibility and compliance. We offer solutions that guarantee 100% compliance to the standards.

CommonLook Seal: 100% guaranteed compliant with Section 508, WCAG 2.0 AA, PDF/UA and HHS

Why is it so hard to ensure files are compliant?

Ever since Adobe Acrobat introduced a PDF tagging layer for accessibility, there were problems with how it was implemented. While Adobe Acrobat is the primary tool for adding tags and fixing documents for accessibility, the Adobe Accessibility Checker does not certify that their documents meet any of the standards for PDF accessibility compliance.

So, what does this mean to you? For many organizations, it means placing your trust in document accessibility firms in hopes that they verify whether your documents are truly in compliance with the standards. If they are not providing you with reports for each document they remediate, how do you guarantee you are getting what you paid for? Without reports, there is no accountability; there is nothing to prove the firm’s compliance claims are true.

Compliance with the actual standards make all the difference

The only way to assure that PDF documents are in compliance is to certify that they meet the standard, checkpoint by checkpoint. Whether you remediate to WCAG 2.0 AA, HHS or PDF/UA, the checkpoints for each standard are clearly defined and must be verified to ensure compliance.

Adobe Acrobat Professional alone does not certify compliance, so you need to use a third-party tool to confirm you are testing against all of the checkpoints. The good news is that the tools to test for compliance are available free of charge. The tools are PAC3 and CommonLook Validator. CommonLook Validator tests against Section 508, WCAG 2.0 AA (Revised Section 508), HHS and PDF/UA, where PAC3 only tests against PDF/UA.

How can I confirm that my vendor is meeting the standards?

We find that many organizations are paying for work that does not meet the standard. It’s not uncommon for us to re-do work that was supposedly done by another remediation firm. This costs the client time, money and resources. That’s why it’s critical to use the right solution in the first place.

The most common remediation mistakes include incorrectly tagged tables that fail to meet the standard. Ask your current vendor how they test their work. Can they certify and guarantee compliance with the standards you requested? Do they provide a 100% compliance guarantee along with a full compliance report for each remediated file? Also, do they have the internal capacity to handle large volumes of work and can guarantee delivery and turnaround time? CommonLook has the capacity to handle any size job and will give you a fixed, firm price and delivery date along with our certificate of 100% compliance.

Here at CommonLook, we not only guarantee our work is 100% in compliance with the standards, but we also include our CommonLook Report to prove the work has been done correctly and that each checkpoint has been tested. This is why many federal agencies accept our report as proof of compliance. Test any files you are having remediated for PDF accessibility by your current vendor using PAC3 or CommonLook Validator to see if the files you are receiving are genuinely accessible.


There is a potential for liability if your low-cost remediation services neglect to ensure your organization’s web content is accessible to everyone.  


Remediation services: the bottom line

  • All PDF remediation is not the same; it is a labor-intensive process that requires the right tools, training and attention to detail. This takes time and manual review, so the lowest price service is not necessarily a good thing if they are cutting corners and putting your organization at legal risk.
  • How does your current vendor provide you with proof of compliance? Do they provide you with a full checkpoint by checkpoint report (like CommonLook does) for each remediated file?
  • Are you checking your current vendor’s work to ensure you are getting 100% compliant documents? Are you testing their files with PAC3 or CommonLook Validator? If not, you should. Want a free scan of your website to see how your vendor is doing?
  • Does your vendor provide you with a guarantee of 100% compliance with the standards?

CommonLook Service is our professional remediation service that uses the CommonLook Suite of tools to validate our remediation work is second to none. Whether you need one file remediated or a large batch of documents, CommonLook is here to certify your project is done quickly, and most importantly, you will have our guarantee of 100% compliance along with our CommonLook report as verification that your files are accessible.