Publishing high-quality content in engaging formats (e.g., video) is the key to capturing your audience’s attention and effectively sharing important information. However, many organizations falter when it comes to making sure that their content is accessible to audiences with disabilities.
We can’t afford to ignore the importance of digital content accessibility, as 56.7 million Americans (representing 18.7% of the U.S. population) have disabilities that impair their access to digital information, such as websites, applications, and documents.
Meanwhile, more and more information is being disseminated via online channels, making it imperative for any organization to ensure that users with disabilities can engage with their content.
There are various accessibility guidelines that organizations are required to follow, and many of them use a VPAT template to streamline the complex process and help ensure compliance.
What’s a VPAT?
A VPAT, or Voluntary Product Accessibility Template, is a self-disclosing document that helps organizations analyze the accessibility of their products according to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). It’s a leading global reporting format for accessibility evaluations.
In particular, Section 508 is enacted to make sure that new opportunities are available for people with disabilities in the digital age by eliminating barriers in information technology.
The Importance Of VPAT and How VPAT is Used
The use of inaccessible technology impacts a user’s ability to obtain and use digital information (e.g., text, video,) affecting the effectiveness of information dissemination.
Section 508 requires that any electronic and information technology that’s developed, procured, maintained, or used by all federal agencies to be accessible to individuals with disabilities, unless doing so will pose an undue burden.
A VPAT checklist assists federal contracting officials to evaluate accessibility features of commercial Information and Communication Technology (ICT) products and services in the procurement process.
This means that any entities working with federal agencies need to ensure VPAT accessibility and VPAT conformance of their products or services.
VPAT Compliance For Video Content
VPAT requirements can be applied to a variety of web content, including text, images, audio, and video. In particular, since video content has been gaining popularity and its effectiveness is undeniable, it’s now imperative for organizations to ensure video accessibility.
In order to leverage the media’s appeal to multiple senses, you need to make sure that visual information is translated into speech, voice is translated into text, and all user functions are accessible.
Some key features for enhancing video accessibility and meeting VPAT requirements include:
- Following accessibility guidelines of Section 508, CVAA, and WCAG AA.
- Providing HTML5 and screen reader support.
- Offering accessible controls that are colorblind compliant, provide high contrast, support keyboard shortcuts, allow HTML role markups and aria-labels, and include sliders for play head and volume control.
- Captioning of speech and audio content, which can be facilitated by an automated captioning feature. For example, with REACH, our users can set specific rules to ensure that videos are captioned automatically to meet various accessibility standards.
How To Obtain a VPAT
A VPAT can be obtained from the Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC) and used by organizations to report the level of compliance of their software products (e.g., to U.S. Federal Government agencies.)
While you can download a default VPAT document from the ITIC’s website or Microsoft Office Apps (in Word format), it’s important to make necessary modifications or include additional information so the final document reflects the specific objectives and guidelines of your organization.
To create a VPAT, you have to complete a VPAT audit of each application that needs to be compliant. The challenge, however, is that the VPAT process requires a high level of specialized knowledge, and conducting a VPAT evaluation internally often requires a significant amount of resources.
As such, many organizations use third-party vendors to create VPATs on their behalf to ensure the highest level of VPAT compliance and meet the latest regulations.
For example, here at Kaltura, we work with Level Access to create a VPAT for guiding the ongoing development of our video solutions, such as our video platform, MediaSpace video portal, as well as our webcasting and live streaming applications.
With the third-party VPAT audit provided by an industry leader, we help our clients meet their goals of offering accessible video content and tools to their users without having to spend a large amount of time and resources to implement the VPAT process internally.
Accessibility guidelines and VPAT requirements are constantly evolving as technologies and user behaviors change. Instead of focusing on specific tools or a single goal, organizations need to adopt an “accessibility mindset” to guide their digital content creation.
With the rising popularity of video, it’s important that you adopt an accessibility mindset and enforce VPAT compliance of your video content. This will help better serve your users and meet the increasingly stringent accessibility requirements — without sacrificing viewers’ engagement with the content.
Here at Kaltura, we’re guided by this accessibility mindset and work with partners, clients, and members of the community to stay at the forefront of video accessibility technologies.
Whether it’s video content for business, education, or cloud TV, we strive to provide cutting-edge video solutions that conform to the highest accessibility guidelines and standards for all our clients.