In an earlier post, we talked about the accessibility mindset and why it was important for creating truly accessible content and tools. But what are the concrete steps that need to be taken to increase accessibility? And how can tools like a VPAT help?
Making Strategic Choices for Accessibility
The first step, of course, is to fully familiarize yourself with the laws and standards that apply to your specific geographic region. Next, if you haven’t already done so, you should consider forming a Strategic Plan for Accessibility for your organization. Here, you can map out the goals (and timelines) for how your organization will handle accessibility issues going forwards. Having a long range institution plan in place can take a fair amount of effort up front. But it can save you enormous headaches later. Trying to address accessibility concerns on a case-by-case basis can lead to inconsistent policies, overspending on last minute solutions, and liabilities you didn’t foresee.
Changing technology vendors can be a painful and expensive process. When choosing how your institution wants to approach accessibility, it makes sense to plan ahead as much as possible. You want to build a process that’s flexible enough to meet your needs in the future. It’s a lot cheaper in the long run than welding on fixes after the fact. That’s part of why embracing the accessibility mindset is so important.
When it comes to meeting these regulations, most organizations are not going to be able to solve these problems on their own. Instead, most will turn to the vendors for help.
How can institutions tell whether a vendor will help them meet all the relevant guidelines? In the United States, the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) offers some help. This is a voluntary, self-disclosing document. In it, vendors detail how their products support each part of WCAG 2.0, the Section 508 Standards, and the European Union’s accessibility act EN 301 549.
Of course, this template is filled out by the vendor themselves. Some vendors will fully disclose everything, while others may try to gloss over issues. You will have to evaluate the VPAT for yourself, as you do the rest of the vendor’s materials. However, a fair amount of work is necessary to complete the assessment. So even the existence of a VPAT can be a good indicator that a vendor takes accessibility seriously.
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