The Silicon Review
“We’re committed to data security and privacy. We’re backing that up with our ISO-27001 certification and our SOC 2 compliance; that’s a big commitment from us.”
Every CEO needs to commit to digital accessibility seriously, not just as an afterthought but rather as a strategic planning initiative. This isn’t that you should be reacting towards, but rather something you are proactive. It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when. Planning will always make the journey in digital accessibility more cost-effective and more sustainable, both financially and socially.
AbleDocs is one such company that is committed to reshaping the PDF accessibility segment. Its founders have been making documents accessible for over 150 years combined experience and have since expanded its offerings to include a completely new approach to document accessibility strategies, especially for high-volume document accessibility testing. It is the only company in the world to guarantee the compliance of every file they produce and back it with a $10,000,000 liability guarantee.
AbleDocs was founded in 2019 and is headquartered in Oakville, Ontario. The company has grown to have operations in Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, and the United States.
To highlight and further understand what AbleDocs stands for and seeks to explore in this segment, I sat down with Adam Spencer, who serves as the company’s President and Chief Executive Officer.
Q. Tell us the backstory that led to the establishment of AbleDocs. What was the inspiration that got the company started?
I got into the industry because my mom told me to; that’s what got me into document accessibility back in 2009. Having worked in the space for over ten years and having that vision of the next step, that’s really what pushed us to found AbleDocs. It was all about knowing who needed to come together under one roof and build that business better.
I saw the opportunity to bring change into the space and not accept what everyone had been doing previously. I wanted to help push that change forward, and that’s what we’ve done to date.
Explain your services in brief.
We’re the largest provider of document accessibility products and services. What does that mean? We take inaccessible content for people with print disabilities and, either using our software products, software services, or consulting and training, we make documents, primarily PDFs, fully accessible and compliant so that people with any ability can access the content within those documents independently. We’ve recently launched a new product line under the ADWeb title, which helps us help our clients further upstream with their digital accessibility strategy. So, incorporating web accessibility and document accessibility into one holistic approach, trying to close that loop for organizations challenged with ensuring their content is accessible.
Q. Growing the company based on employees’ passions must be the priority. Do you ask your employees what they are interested in doing and how they would like to see their career unfold?
Every step of the way. That’s how we start; that’s how we hire. We ask the questions, “What do you want to get out of this? It’s not what I want to get out of you, but rather what do you want to get out of AbleDocs, and how can I support you getting there?”
It’s not just about titles and LinkedIn profiles. It’s about what you want to do for this space and how we can challenge you; how can we support you.
I’m a big believer that we’ve got that committed passion from everyone, which will drive the company forward. And it’s not running the company off of spreadsheets and performance; it’s about running it off of passion and supporting a sound business.
Q. Access management and the privacy of sensitive information is a major consideration around document accessibility products and services. How can we overcome this issue?
It’s part of our core belief that we must build systems and approaches to contain sensitive data content. Not just through the transmission of it but from the consumption of that content. We must understand that we can’t just send it to someone to remediate it manually as it has all their financial and personal health information. That’s an archaic way of approaching document accessibility. So, we’ve been committed to building systems that are able to do that in an automated and secure way. We’re committed to data security and privacy. We’re backing that up with our ISO-27001 certification and our SOC 2 compliance; that’s a big commitment from us. It’s a massive investment from us, but it’s one we have to do to ensure our clients’ are protected and their information is held in a secure fashion.
Q. Developing innovative solutions needs the support of high-level talent and dedication. How did you manage to form your dream team?
Well, we’re not done yet; we’re continuously building the dream team. I think a lot of it comes down to shared values, a shared passion, and the ability to take a step back and have a laugh over a beer and realize this isn’t about one person, but it’s about what we can do as a team. And I think we’ve shown the industry that we’re a place that encourages that. And we see that with the team members we’ve brought on board. They see our passion and commitment to our vision and want to be a part of it. We’ve created an infectious culture, which I think has been lost, particularly in our industry, and a lot of that has to do with outsourcing. The passion seems to be gone. And even the private equity players that have come into our space, they’ve squeezed out that commitment to accessibility for profit. And it’s not that we’re anti-profit by any stretch of the imagination, but there’s a balance. And I think that’s what our leadership team has seen and continuously looks to push even from entry-level hirers. How do we promote? How do we get people moving as quickly as possible? Things that used to take us 18-24 months to promote, we’ve now gotten down to six. And that constant feeding of new opportunities becomes infectious for the team. And that’s why we want to be that house that people want to join because we’re pushing that space.
Q. Do you have any new services ready to be launched?
We just launched ADWeb in early October 2021, a product of our two latest acquisitions: Web Key IT out of Australia and Sitemorse out of the United Kingdom. And we’re thrilled to be able to look at how we integrate that whole cohesive digital accessibility strategy into one. We are here to help our clients at the outset of their digital accessibility journey through web accessibility and committed passion to document accessibility. It’s a really exciting time for us with the launch of ADWeb.
Q. What does the future hold for your company and its customers? Are exciting things on the way?
Yes! I mean, we have an evergreen development commitment. So, we have new features and new products being built as we speak. We’ve got even new freeware coming out to ensure end-users have barrier-free access to compliant PDF files. Our roadmap for 2022 is filled with so many exciting products because we can. And there really isn’t another organization out there that can deliver the way that we do. And that’s a commitment we remain steadfast to.
A Relentlessly Reliable Leader
Adam Spencer is the President and Chief Executive Officer of AbleDocs. He is recognized as one of the top international experts in PDF and PDF accessibility technologies. Mr. Spencer has been an active member of the standards authoring community for eight years and continues contributing to ISO 32000-1/2 and ISO 14289-1/2. Adam is also the Vice-Chair of the Standards Council of Canada for PDF and PDF accessibility.