A rubric or a list of criteria to adhere to is helpful in many instances. The expectations of quality when looking at documents. How to evaluate something or someone by reflecting and reviewing a certain set of objectives. There may be a range with which to rate performance, or certain characteristics arranged in levels. And over time, these may be revised and updated to reflect current requirements when change is needed.
Such is true with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG. These are guidelines on how to make content accessible to people with disabilities. While initially these guidelines focused on web access, over time, they have been referenced as guidelines for creating accessible content as well.
The World Wide Web Consortium was established in 1994, to develop specifications for accessible design. At the start, WCAG 1.0 guidelines were created particularly for Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) 4. As HTML has evolved, and more content has been created electronically or digitally, WCAG 2.0 was developed.
WCAG has 65 success criteria, with 3 conformance levels, A, AA, and AAA (like batteries) across four areas: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust (POUR). Each area has levels that the product can be measured on: A and AA are most used currently. The TBR Accessibility Initiative is following WCAG A and AA.
Product developers began to develop a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template or VPAT to identify if their products met these guidelines. This is a document that can be requested, in order to assist in making decisions about the accessibility of instructional materials. It’s a chance to view details by several competing products and determine if one is more accessible than another, if thorough accessibility testing has been completed. While the VPAT is voluntary, it is a good indication that a vendor is taking accessibility seriously, even if there are exceptions listed on it.
There are exceptions to every rule, right?
On the VPAT, the standard will be stated on the left. If “Supports with Exceptions” is written next to it, it means that the standard is partially met. Confused? Is it compliant or not?
For compliance with WCAG standards and those of the TBR Accessibility Initiative, an additional document needs to be requested, which asks the vendor how they plan to bring their product into full compliance. This is the TBR Accessibility Conformance and Remediation Form, and needs to address the gaps identified from the VPAT.
Clear as mud. In a previous blog post, there are some easy checking tips as a first review to use when reading the VPAT.
Having access to the product, the VPAT and completing some easy checks following those tips will assist in determining if it is time to put it to the test with screen reading software for the final decision.