Web Accessibility and the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT)

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Web Accessibility

An often overlooked but truly valuable and vital process of having web applications or software developed is reviewing the “accessibility” of your product.  The term “accessibility” refers to how user friendly your application is in regards to those who have varying levels of disabilities so they can perceive, understand and navigate your software.

Having a product that is more accessible means you can reach a broader audience and support those with conditions that make it harder to utilize the computer in ways that we often take for granted.  Those with visual, audio, motor and cognitive impairments are given availability of information.

For instance, people with different levels of blindness often make use of screen reading software such as NVDA or JAWS to read out what is being displayed on their computer currently.  At the development level we can incorporate many techniques such as proper semantic HTML usage to better support these programs.

Another instance would be people being unable to use a mouse to navigate.  These people make extensive use of the keyboard to navigate their computer.  We use things such as a proper tabbing order to allow a user to navigate via the tab key.

A key misconception that is often linked with doing accessibility work and improvements for a product is that it will involve making many compromises on what is an attractive design for your product.  While there are certainly some things that should be avoided, often you will find that taking the time to review accessibility results in a design that improves a user’s flow across the board.  The end result is a more appealing experience for everyone who uses the software.  Going through this process often helps to refine what is truly important for all users and helps put a greater focus on those main areas.  This makes the process valuable for everyone involved.

At Westmoreland Software we can leverage our developer’s knowledge on web accessibility to help increase usability for all of your potential web application/software users. We are familiar with various testing practices used to identify and address accessibility issues on your application.  One important tool that is used to help ensure conformance is Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT).  This document helps you conform to the standards that have been provided by accessibility experts in the industry.

Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT)

The Voluntary Product Accessibility Template is a document set forth to define how your application/software conforms to the Revised 508 Standards for accessibility. Ensuring an application meets the standards as defined in the VPAT is a crucial element for wanting to be able to target government use and provide a good user experience in general.

The VPAT provides an easy to reference document that clearly defines how your product conforms to the standards it covers.  In regards to web applications, this refers to the VPAT (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) WCAG edition.  You can find an example of this document at the link below:

Having completed this process for our own internal projects, WS can offer our services to help ensure your application meets the proposed standards as best as possible.  Having this document helps greatly to further ensure your website is as accessible as possible and in return provide a good user experience across the board for all users.  Contact us today to see how we can help your company achieve these goals.