WEBINAR: VPAT, Accessibility Conformance Reports, and Developing Alternate Access Plans

Colleges and universities have legal obligations and institutional goals to ensure technology is accessible to all users. However, most technology is not completely accessible. By reviewing information and communication technology (ICT) products for accessibility conformance, institutions can be part of the collective efforts to reduce the accessibility barriers for students, faculty, and staff, anywhere the products are used. In this session, participants will learn: how a product’s VPAT (Voluntary Product Accessibility Template) and ACR (Accessibility Conformance Report) can help an institution develop an alternate access plan and ensure the institution is taking steps towards achieving Section 508 compliance.

  • Participants will be able to describe the terms Section 508 standards, VPAT, ACR, and Equally Effective Alternate Access Plan.
  • Participants will be able to list six (6) types of accessibility conformance reviews.
  • Participants will be able to determine if a VPAT or ACR is relevant to an accessibility conformance review.
  • Participants will be able to describe how the information in a VPAT or ACR can be used to develop an alternate access plan.

Speakers:

Nicolás M. Crisosto

Nicolás M. CrisostoAccessibility Specialist at a California Community College

Nicolás M. Crisosto is the Accessibility Specialist at a California Community College and has been an Education and Technology consultant since 2003. He reviews technology as a certified Trusted Tester, evaluates VPAT or ACR documentation, and recommends alternate access plans as part of an institution’s information and communication technology compliance review process. Nicolás works with companies and non-profit organizations to implement solutions for accessibility challenges. He provides training for faculty members and staff on a variety of topics including web accessibility, creating accessible documents (Word, PDFs, and forms), and reviewing accessibility documentation for Section 508 and WCAG conformance.

Bandit, Nicolas’ guide dog, is an accessibility advocate who enjoys playing fetch, taking naps, and traveling with his human.

Accommodating All Test-takers: Honorlock’s Accessibility-First Approach

Honorlock's accessibility first approach

Accommodating All Test-takers: Honorlock’s Accessibility-First Approach

Accessibility-first approach

Test-takers are faced with many unknowns as they navigate online testing. Individuals who need accommodations are often met with strict guidelines and difficult system requirements that limit their ability to take an exam comfortably. Remote proctoring is often seen as just a way to prevent cheating or other misconduct within online exams, but the right approach can also improve accessibility for all test-takers.

Honorlock aims for genuine accessibility for all users. We engage a third-party to conduct a yearly end-to-end accessibility test across all workflows to ensure accessibility and build our Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT). Honorlock spreads knowledge throughout our organization with regular accessibility training. As our accessibility-certified engineers develop our solutions, we focus on building features with an accessibility-first mindset. This means providing flexible accommodations, integrating with assistive technology, conforming to compliance standards and guidelines, and routinely reviewing the accessibility of our offerings. To drive continuous improvement, we conduct regular audits throughout the year to ensure we address any accessibility bugs, keep up with new WCAG standards, and adjust accordingly.

Independent third-party accessibility audits

Thorough VPAT for test-takers & admins

Spread knowledge across the organization

Accessibility-first approach

Constant improvement

Student preparation tools

When users feel prepared and comfortable using the features available, technology is accessible. Honorlock’s online proctoring platform is designed to be easy to use for exam admins and test-takers alike.

Practice exams

Practice Exams are the perfect way for exam administrators and exam-takers to get familiar with using Honorlock. These are enabled by exam admins so exam-takers can surface any questions before they’re in a real exam.

Student tutorial

HonorPrep, our guided tour, has unlimited uses and lets students prepare for their first Honorlock exam. It includes a system check, authentication walkthrough, and sample room scan.

Knowledge Base

For students who need more in-depth help, Honorlock’s Knowledge Base details specific guides for common issues and has detailed FAQs.

Accommodating all test-takers with Honorlock

Minimal system requirements

Exams should be accessible for everyone, regardless of Internet connection. Honorlock proctored exams don’t “boot out” test-takers when a challenge or error arises. Our goal is to help test-takers complete their exams as seamlessly as possible, without inducing extra anxiety.

For students with low bandwidth, Honorlock adjusts our reporting and session viewer so that the test-taker can complete their exam even on an unstable network. Our solution still captures still images to compensate for slower networks to allow test-takers to complete their exams.

Test-takers in rural communities are able to take their exams at any time of day, without a required hardwire connection. We also allow users to take their exams on Wi-Fi or hotspots, unlike other providers.

Screenreaders

Honorlock accommodates those who need text to be read aloud with a screen reading capability. Check out the functionality in the video below.

Keyboard accessible

Exam administrators and test-takers are able to navigate within Honorlock. An outline appears while tabbing provides clear guidance on where users are navigating within Honorlock.

Human proctoring and decision-making

Human involvement means we can make human decisions around accessibility. Our live proctors are trained in de-escalation and focus on the success of the test-taker. For example, our live proctor will review accommodations before intervening. If a test-taker is allowed to wear headphones, per an accommodation, the live proctor would refrain from intervening and interrupting the exam session.

Accommodations

Exam administrators can enter any specific accommodations for test-takers, such as additional time or breaks to complete their exams. This includes extensions enabled for assistive purposes or other assistive technology, such as dictation software. Honorlock will respect accommodations configured within the LMS as well.

Some sample accommodations include:

Smart Speech Detection

Honorlock’s Smart Speech Detection listens for keywords and phrases that may indicate exam misconduct, like “Hey Siri” and “OK Google”, which allows test-takers to read aloud without being flagged and interrupted.

Honorlock meets accessibility standards

Honorlock’s accessibility highlights

Honorlock aims for excellence when meeting accessibility standards. Our experts keep us ahead of the curve and allow every test-taker to experience a seamless testing experience.

Not all remote proctoring solutions are alike

Not all remote proctoring solutions are alike and there are some key elements you should consider. By building out your own accessibility checklist, you can be sure that your proctoring partner is the best fit for your test-takers. Consider adding some of the questions below when comparing services.

To learn more, please review Honorlock’s Accessibility Statement. If you would like to discuss building out your own accessibility checklist or statement, get in touch today.

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How Can Diversity & Inclusion Improve Business Performance?

How DEI improves business performance for businesses

More companies are investing time and effort into improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace because of the impact it has on the employee experience and the tangible performance improvements it creates.

“The business case is glaring. Diverse companies with inclusive cultures outperform more homogenous companies. Revenue, market share, smarter teams, retention – there’s just no lack of evidence.” – Miriam Lewis, Chief Inclusion Officer for Principal.

Click to view each section:

Click here to download the diversity statement template

How diversity and inclusion efforts impact a company’s performance

According to a six-year study completed in 2020 by McKinsey, diverse companies are 36% more profitable than less diverse companies.

Diversity and inclusion (D&I), when done the right way, create a domino effect of improvements for businesses.

D&I is linked with employee engagement, which is a foundational element of productivity and employee retention. Both employee productivity and retention can directly impact financial performance.

To show you what we mean by this web of improvements, the graphic below shows how the benefits of D&I intersect in various areas.

How to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Understand the difference between diversity and inclusion

As organizations begin planning, it’s important to understand the difference between diversity and inclusion, which are sometimes used interchangeably or even as a joint term.

“Diversity is the mix of individuals. Inclusion is how you make that mix work.” – Jameel Rush, PHR, SHRM-CP, Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Adjunct professor at Villanova University

 

Focus on first creating inclusion and THEN building diversity in the workplace

Many organizations’ knee-jerk reaction to diversity and inclusion efforts is to hire for diversity.

The problem is that you can hire for diversity, but it can still be a poor experience for the employee if they’re entering a workplace that isn’t inclusive. It isn’t enough to set up occasional employee training and hire a few diverse employees as a way to check the box.

So, before you hire, focus on creating an inclusive culture that’s genuine and ongoing.

“Adding diversity to a team isn’t what drives better outcomes. It’s adding diversity and making sure you can leverage the different points of view and different perspectives to work toward a stronger solution. That’s what adds to the better business results.” – Jameel Rush

 

Be transparent and create awareness

Be transparent about D&I efforts and create awareness about the impact and importance.

Leadership can’t shy away from communicating the organization’s efforts and goals around D&I. They need to be transparent and open about the organization’s short-term and long-term goals and what efforts will be made to get there.

Leaders need to create awareness about how a diverse and inclusive work culture benefits each employee in the organization and everyone around them on a day-to-day basis.

Set expectations about behavior and accountability

Ultimately, every employee at every level needs to know what their role is in creating an inclusive culture. This means that employees need to understand what’s expected of them and what they can expect from organizational leaders and the organization as a whole.

Explain exactly what’s expected from each employee and what behaviors won’t be tolerated. Likewise, they need to know what to expect from leaders and the organization in return. Detail what to expect from measuring and communicating progress, anticipated timelines, and how leadership will be held accountable for progress towards D&I efforts.

 

Educate employees and assess their knowledge

Conduct frequent diversity and inclusion education programs in the workplace and use assessments to track progress and gather feedback. Set specific timelines to conduct employee D&I educational opportunities and stick to the plan. Whether it’s once per quarter or twice a year, make sure that you educate employees and get their feedback.

Once employees have completed the educational requirements, it’s important to test their knowledge. You can use a variety of question types, such as multiple-choice, written responses, and true or false.

As part of the employee education and assessment process, gather feedback within the assessment or offer a separate low-stakes assessment where employees can provide anonymous feedback through polls, written responses, and other surveys.

Create a diversity and inclusion statement for the workplace

Create a diversity and inclusion statement for your team and/or company that describes your commitment to creating an inclusive and diverse workplace and how it impacts everyone in the organization.

Employees need to know that it’s a true effort and that they’re welcome regardless of race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic background.

What is a diversity and inclusion statement?

A diversity and inclusion statement explains:

  • The individual/team/company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion
  • How D&I impacts the workplace
  • What employees can expect from the leader/company
  • What the leader/company expects from employees

How to write a diversity and inclusion statement for the workplace

Describe your commitment to DEI and why it’s important

This is where you set the tone for the rest of the statement, provide context, and begin building trust.

 

Explain how D&I impacts each employee’s experience

The goal is to explain exactly how D&I benefits the workplace experience for each employee and their coworkers. Create an understanding that regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, age, or condition, each employee is welcome and included in the company.

 

Describe what employees can expect from the company and its leaders

At a high level, explain what efforts will be made to create and maintain a diverse and inclusive workplace, what success looks like, and how employees can hold the company and its leaders accountable. Acknowledge challenges and describe what will be done to overcome them.

 

Be clear about what’s expected of each employee

Employees at all levels need to know exactly what is expected of them and how they play a role in creating an inclusive work environment.

Be direct about what behavior is expected
Explain that derogatory and offensive language won’t be tolerated and the consequences that will be enforced.

Explain why their words are significant
Speak about the importance of using inclusive language and how it can help create a sense of belonging for other employees.

Example diversity and inclusion statement for companies to use

[company name] is committed to creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace because it’s these differences that drive innovation, encourage creativity, and build a respectful and safe work environment for every employee. Regardless of any differences, whether race, gender, ethnicity, age, or condition, you are an important part of this organization and community.

As [company name] works toward improving DEI, expect us to provide frequent and transparent updates regarding our progress, challenges, and plans moving forward.

Your role in creating a diverse and inclusive work environment is equally important because you can make an impact on others. You’ll treat each employee with respect and understand that your words and actions influence everyone around you. [Company name] will not tolerate any derogatory or offensive words or actions. It’s your duty, just like ours, to stay aware, informed, and proactive.

Remember that we all play an equal part in an ongoing effort to create a diverse, fair, and inclusive workplace that welcomes all employees, encourages open and respectful communication, and supports each of you throughout your career and life.

 

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How to Create a Fair Test Environment With Educational Technology

4 example scenarios when using ed tech can help create a fair test environment

Ultimately, educators and institutions want to create a better online learning experience for all students. And part of that experience includes creating a fair and equitable testing environment for every student.

We’ll look at four real-life situations and show you how to use innovative educational technology to provide a fair experience for your students.

Scenario 1: The student lives in a busy household

Scenario 2: Students in class have disabilities or conditions

Scenario 3: Religious attire and accessories are worn by students during an exam

Scenario 4: Some students have access to cell phones and additional devices

Example scenario 1: A student living in a busy household

If a student lives in a busy household, it can be difficult to take an online exam in a quiet environment with no other people around them.

This situation can cause anxiety for a student taking an online proctored exam because they probably assume that they’ll be flagged if a family member or roommate walks by the room.

Use LMS exam settings and online proctoring

Students can take the exam at any time

Honorlock’s online proctoring services are available anytime. This allows each student to take the exam at a time that works for them – such as when family members are at work.

Instructors can advise the proctor of accommodations for students

If the instructor is aware of the student’s situation, they can provide the live test proctor with accommodation instructions that allow other people to be in the room and to expect voices and sound.

The instructor can add the guidelines for specific students. With this approach, students won’t need to worry about being flagged if someone walks into the room.

Scenario 2: The student has a disability or condition

About 1 in 5 students have a disability according to the US Department of Education. Disabilities can include physical conditions, visual and hearing impairments, learning disabilities, and other health conditions.

Use online proctoring, exam settings, and accessibletechnology

Allowing accommodations to meet student needs

As mentioned in scenario 1, the instructor can use innovative educational technology to provide specific accommodations for individual students.

Accommodations can vary but here are just a few examples allowing

  • Extended exam time limits and due dates
  • Bathroom breaks as needed
  • Other people in the room to assist the student
  • Assistive technology and devices to be used during the exam

Using platforms that integrate with assistive technology and devices

Assistive technology gives each student a fair opportunity to engage with all software and hardware in the course, regardless of their conditions and disabilities.

A few examples of assistive technology are:

  • Screen readers
  • Assistive keyboards
  • Dictation software (speech-to-text & text-to-speech software)

Honorlock’s online proctoring software is innovative educational technology that is fully ADA accessible and compliant with Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It’s also developed and tested to conform to WCAG 2.0 level AA guidelines for accessible use.

Scenario 3: Religious attire and accessories are worn by a student during the proctored exam

Students may choose to wear religious attire and accessories during the proctored exam, such as hats and head or face coverings. However, some online proctoring services may flag students for wearing religious attire, which can cause added stress for the student.

Use Honorlock’s online proctoring services and provide accommodations

Instructors can provide specific accommodations that allow students to wear religious attire during the proctored online exam. This way, students won’t have to worry about being flagged and they can focus on the exam.

Scenario 4: Students with access to multiple devices

If advanced remote proctoring isn’t in place, students can easily use their cell phones or other devices to look up test answers. And if exams are only proctored using AI, such as browser lockdown software, students can still use other devices. This situation creates unfair advantages for students who may have multiple devices.

Use online proctoring to detect cell phones and other devices

Honorlock’s online proctoring software can detect cell phones when students attempt to use them to access test bank content during the exam.

Our proctoring software collects and provides evidence by:

  • Capturing a screen recording and creating a flag in the exam report
  • Sending an audible sound through the secondary device that will be picked up by the student’s computer microphone and audible on the exam recording
  • Alerting a live test proctor to enter the test session and address the situation
  • Providing the evidence to the instructor within the Honorlock dashboard after the proctored exam

Additional ways Honorlock’s online proctoring software helps protect exams and support students

Combining AI test monitoring software and live remote proctors

Honorlock combines AI with human proctors to provide a better testing experience for students. Our approach to remote proctoring provides a less non-invasive test experience for the student because they aren’t constantly watched.

Our proctoring software monitors each student’s online exam session and alerts a live proctor if any potential academic dishonesty is detected. The live proctor can then use an analysis window to review the situation before entering the exam session via chat-box in real-time to address the situation.

Helping reduce student test anxiety

It’s easy to understand why students can experience test anxiety – especially in an online environment when there are potential technology concerns or it may be their first online exam. But in a recent student survey, Honorlock’s combination of AI and live proctors was shown to help reduce student test anxiety.

“The proctor popping in was different than I expected – in a positive way. I imagined them being more strict. I felt that the proctor was helpful and a lot less intimidating than I thought.” – Student quote in a post-exam interview

Training live proctors to support students during times of stress

To further support students, Honorlock’s full-time remote proctoring team received training by a nationally certified counselor and educator on providing students with help and support during moments of test anxiety and frustration.

This human-centric communication helps students build confidence in the process and with our remote proctors.

Detecting voices

Our online proctoring software listens for specific keywords or phrases, such as “Hey Siri,” to identify students who may be attempting to gain an unfair advantage. If any voices are detected, the AI alerts a live remote proctor to enter the online exam session via chat to intervene and redirect the student.

Verifying student identity
Honorlock’s ID verification makes it quick and easy to ensure that the student taking the proctored exam is the student getting credit. The AI captures a picture of the student and their photo ID and they can begin the proctored online exam in about a minute.

Protecting test questions and answers
Faculty spend a lot of time creating test questions and answers only to find out that they’re being shared on the Internet. With Honorlock’s Search & Destroy(™) technology, instructors can know when their test questions are shared online and take actions to ensure their exams are fair and secure.

How does Honorlock’s Search and Destroy work?

1. Searches the Web
Searches the web to identify exam questions that have been shared online.

2. Instructors review results
Instructors can review results about exam questions that have been compromised.

3. Instructors take action
Instructors can choose to send content takedown requests (when applicable) and update their exam questions.

Providing in-depth reports

It’s important for instructors to understand student behavior and how they approach an exam. Honorlock’s online proctoring software collects extensive data during the exam and provides easy-to-read, actionable reports and time-stamped recordings within the LMS dashboard.

“Honorlock was more than a tool to guard or block students from using inappropriate information. It was also a means to detect and determine many different ways that students approach the exams. Because of access to the wealth of data/information through Honorlock, I became better able to utilize it.” – Ryan P. Mears, PhD University of Florida

Securing third-party exams

Honorlock’s remote proctoring software allows faculty to protect third-party exams outside the LMS on platforms such as MyMathLab, ALEKS, Pearson, and McGraw Hill.

When done right, remote proctoring creates a better testing experience.

Honorlock’s approach to remote proctoring focuses on keeping the human touch by doing what’s best for the institution and the student.

Our purpose is much more than catching students who are cheating – we strive to create a testing experience that supports honesty and integrity in a non-invasive, fair, and equitable testing environment.

Submit your email below to download our 5-part DEI eBook

Part 1: Addressing the need for DEI in online education

Part 2: Strategies to develop diverse, equitable, and inclusive online courses

Part 3: How to create accessible online courses (with real examples)

Part 4: Tips to improve your connection with students in an online learning environment

Part 5: How to use educational technology to create a fair testing environment

Assistive Technology in Remote Learning and How it Works

Assistive technology solutions in remote learning play a vital role in creating an accessible and inclusive learning environment for students. Accessibility means creating the ability for people to access any environment, service, or product regardless of their disabilities or particular needs.

Much like we expect buildings to have wheelchair ramps, elevators, and braille, remote learning technologies must offer similar accommodations. Any remote learning technology, whether it’s software or hardware, must be inclusive and accessible for every person. 

This article will review:

  • What is assistive technology?
  • Disability types and common assistive technology solutions used for each
  • How specific assistive technology solutions work 
  • How to ensure other educational technology platforms are accessible

What is assistive technology?

Assistive technology is any item, product, equipment that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities for students with disabilities, according to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) law. 

What types of disabilities are there?

The CDC defines a disability as, “any condition of the body or mind (impairment) that makes it more difficult for the person with the condition to do certain activities (activity limitation) and interact with the world around them (participation restrictions).” The section below defines disability types based on the CDC definitions and additional information such as commonly used assistive technology solutions for each.

Disability Types

Visual Impairment: A decreased ability to see to any degree that causes problems not fixable by usual means, such as glasses or medication.

Other terms that are often used to describe students with visual impairments are partial vision, low vision, legally blind, and totally blind. 

Common assistive technology solutions used for visual disabilities:

  • Screen reader
  • Text to speech
  • Braille displays
  • Magnification software
  • Dictation software
  • Optical Character Recognition

Hearing Disability: Any degree of hearing loss, whether severe or mild. Other terms used to describe students with hearing loss are deaf, deafened, hard of hearing, and hearing impaired.

Common assistive technology solutions used for hearing disabilities:

  • Hearing aid
  • Captioning
  • Speech to text synthesizer 
  • FM system

Motor/Mobility Disability: The partial or total loss of function of a body part. This may result in muscle weakness, poor stamina, lack of muscle control, or total paralysis.

Common assistive technology solutions used for motor or mobility disabilities:

  • Voice recognition software
  • Accessible keyboard and mouse (and alternatives)
  • Mouth stick
  • Hand wand
  • Eye tracking (or eye gaze tracking)

Learning Disability: Limitations in mental functioning, thinking, and reasoning.

Common assistive technology solutions used for learning disabilities:

  • Text to speech
  • Speech to text
  • Word prediction software
  • Graphic organizers

Speech Disorder: A communication disorder such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment, or a voice impairment that impacts performance, according to the IDEA law.

Common assistive technology solutions for speech disorders:

  • Speech to text
  • Text to speech
  • Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices (symbol communicators, screen sentence grids)

How does assistive technology work?

This section focuses on several common assistive technologies: screen reader, assistive keyboard and adaptive mouse, dictation software, video and audio captions/transcripts, and graphic organizers.

Screen reader

A screen reader transmits text and image information displayed on the computer screen into speech or touch (braille) that a visually impaired user can process. Most screen readers also have functionality that helps students with visual disabilities navigate websites and other computer applications. 

Screen readers are relatively easy to use and set up because most modern computers, cellphones, and tablets have a built-in screen reader function. The screen reader software you choose depends on your device, browser preference, and the applications you use.

Popular screen reader software: Job Access With Speech (JAWS), NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA), Apple VoiceOver, and Orca.

Assistive keyboard and adaptive mouse

An assistive keyboard is designed and modified for students based on several disabilities and needs such as motor and visual impairments.

Keyboards for motor impairments

Keyboards are adaptive for those with motor impairments such as dexterity and muscle control. 

These assistive keyboards may have raised areas between the keys, allowing the student to place their hands on the keyboard before finding the right key, which helps with typing accuracy because it requires a more deliberate action from the user. Keyboards can also be built for right or left-handed people and include shortcut functionality for ease of use.

Keyboards for visual impairments

Assistive keyboards for visual disabilities include features such as large print and high contrast keys, color indicators for shortcuts, and braille.

Adaptive mouse

An adaptive mouse makes it easier for students to click, scroll, and navigate the computer screen. They also eliminate the need for gripping and wrist movements. Some assistive technologies that can be considered an adaptive mouse are a mouth stick, eye controlled mouse, and head controlled mouse. 

Mouth stick: assistive technology for students with total or partial loss of hand control allowing them to type and click. As an example, a user can puff then sip to indicate a mouse click.

Eye controlled mouse: this assistive technology tracks eye movements to move the mouse pointer to the area of the screen where the student is looking.

Head controlled mouse: an assistive technology that translates specific head movements for mouse movement and functioning. If the student moves their head to the right, the mouse pointer will move to the right.

Dictation Software

ssistive dictation software helps students with physical disabilities such as the ability to write and cognitive disabilities such as dyslexia. Dictation software is built into most modern devices and includes many assistive technologies such as speech to text and text to speech software and devices. 

For example, speech to text dictation software can help a student who cannot type because they can simply say the words out loud, including punctuation marks, and the software put the spoken words into text. In contrast, text to speech dictation software can help a student who may have trouble with speech; they can type the words into the dictation software and it will render the text into speech.

Popular dictation software: Dragon, Apple Dictation, GoogleDocs Voice Typing, Windows Speech Recognition, Otter

Video and Audio Transcription

Video and audio can create an engaging and interactive remote learning for students if they can see or hear what’s being communicated.

Many accessibility compliance standards require that all video, audio, images, and any other multimedia content should have text alternatives such as video subtitles and captioning, as well as audio transcripts and descriptions. These text alternatives allow students to perceive and understand multimedia content in the remote learning environment.

  • Video subtitles are what is said in the video.
  • Video captions provide speech and non-speech elements in the video such as a doorbell ringing.
  • Audio transcripts and descriptions are a text version of the spoken audio and provide important visual information.

Popular captioning and subtitling software: YouTube, Subtitle Horse, Amara

Graphic Organizers

According to the Learning Disabilities Association of America, graphic organizers are an assistive technology that helps students through visual thinking tools. This remote learning technology helps students organize information, visualize ideas, brainstorm, plan, improve reading comprehension, and compare and contrast ideas, and more. Flow charts, Venn diagrams, and concept maps are commonly used graphic organizers.

Accessibility of Educational Technology in Remote Learning

The importance of remote learning technologies, such as remote proctoring software, learning management systems, and video conferencing continues to grow every day.

Using accessibility-friendly and assistive technology for learning disabilities at your institution provides an inclusive remote learning environment with accessible online classes and keeps your institution compliant with accessibility standards and laws. But how do you make sure that remote learning technology and platforms are accessible and compliant? Review the VPAT and determine which accessibility compliance standards are relevant for your online classes.

What is a VPAT?

The Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) is a document from a Washington-based policy group that provides a standardized reporting format for product accessibility conformance. 

What to look for in a VPAT

Simply having a VPAT available for an educational technology product doesn’t mean the document includes information relevant and useful for your needs. The information in a VPAT needs to be relevant to an institution’s accessibility conformance review process. Reviewing the VPAT ensures that the educational technology also supports specific assistive technologies based on your needs. 

Look for these in a VPAT:  

  • Versions 
  • Editions 
  • Date completed 
  • Evaluation methods
  • Remarks/explanations 

As an example, here’s the beginning of Honorlock’s VPAT (below), which is available on the Honorlock website and provides the report version and edition, date completed, and evaluation methods used. The VPAT continues to explain each item’s conformance level along with remarks and explanations.

Honorlock Accessibility Conformance Report 

Revised Section 508 Edition VPAT ® 

Version 2.3 (Revised) – March 2021 

Name of Product and Version: Honorlock

Product Description: Online remote proctoring 

Report Date 
March 17, 2021 

Contact Information
If you have questions about the information in this document, please contact us via accessibility@honorlock.com. 

Evaluation Methods Used
Honorlock was evaluated using automated and manual testing procedures. Honorlock web content and user pages were evaluated with JAWS 2019 and the Chrome browser in the Canvas learning management system. The accessibility evaluation was conducted by Honorlock staff familiar with the product and a third-party accessibility tester familiar with both JAWS and Canvas.

Web Accessibility Compliance Standards

There are a few web accessibility compliance standards and groups that we’ll review to help your institution focus on meeting and exceeding them.

W3C

The World Wide Web Consortium is a community group that creates, develops, and maintains Web Accessibility standards that create a “web for all”. W3C’s goal is to provide equal access regardless of the students’ mental or physical ability, hardware, software, location, and language.

ADA Standards

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design was created by The Department of Justice. These standards ensure that all users of electronic information and technology will have equal accessibility regardless of their disability. ADA standards cover several areas such as text design, hyperlinks, images and descriptions, and audio/video. 

WCAG

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines is a technical standard developed through W3C processes. WCAG creates a shared standard for web content, such as website pages, videos, and structure,  that’s accessible and inclusive for all users. 

Section 508

Section 508 is a federal requirement to ensure that organizations create and maintain accessible information and communications technology (ICT) to all people who have disabilities. ICT includes hardware, multimedia, and more.

Proactive Accessibility Practices Position Institutions as Leaders

By ensuring that all educational technology and assistive technology used at your institution are accessible and compliant, you’re creating an equal remote learning experience for all students. As more educational institutions are moving towards remote learning and educational technology is rapidly evolving, being proactive with accessibility helps position your institution at the forefront of online education and truly levels the playing field for all students.

Want to learn more about accessibility compliance standards and steps to creating accessible online classes? Finish the series.

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Creating Accessible Online Classes (with examples)

There’s a lot to consider when creating online classes that are accessible for every student regardless of any disability.

  • Does your color contrast between text and background colors meet accessibility compliance standards?
  • Is the online course content legally compliant with accessibility standards such as ADA, Section 508, and WCAG?
  • Do images have appropriate text descriptions in the right format?
  • Is the course content accessible by screen readers?
  • Are your videos captioned? 
  • Are the learning technologies accessible?
  • Are you creating meaningful links?

These are just a few examples of questions to consider when developing your online course content. Use these tips as a guide to creating a well-designed online course that’s accessible for all students and meets common accessibility compliance standards such as ADA, Section 508, and WCAG.

Why is accessibility important in online learning?

Simply put: accessibility in the classroom makes online learning inclusive and usable for all students, regardless of their disability or condition.

Evolving technology drives change in accessible online learning

When online classes started, they were typically asynchronous (learning at your own pace) with course content that was largely text-based with no frills. Text-based content is accessible for most students.

As technology in online learning evolved and improved, online class content changed as well. Online classes have become more interactive with instructors using online learning tools such as online proctoring, testing platforms, and live video lectures; instructors are also integrating more multimedia, such as images and videos, and links to other content. 

Accessible online learning isn’t static

Higher education institutions need to continuously monitor the accessibility of their online learning modalities, practices, and technologies. If you haven’t previously developed your course content with accessibility in mind, start today. If you haven’t tested the accessibility of your online course materials – start today. All students deserve an equal and inclusive educational experience whether it’s online or in-person. 

What makes an online class accessible?

Follow WCAG’s POUR Principles of web accessibility (Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, Robust).

Perceivable Accessibility: Ensures that all students can identify and interact with online class elements by the senses.

Operable Accessibility: Students should have the ability to interact with the online course content through navigation, controls, buttons, and other interactive course elements.

Understandable Accessibility: Online course content shouldn’t just be operable, users need the ability to fully comprehend and understand the information. Understandable information should be consistent and appropriate in format and design across all methods of delivery (text, audio, video, etc.).

Robust Accessibility: Online class content must be robust enough to be used across different technologies. Robust course content should be accurately interpreted and interacted with across the LMS and other learning technologies such as remote proctoring and virtual learning elements, multimedia, and other web formats.

Accessibility Checklist and Tips for Online Classes

Accessible Online Course Design

Accessible online course content is easy to read, structured, and organized.

Color Contrast

Color choice is very important for all students to be able to interpret and use the content on the web. Contrast ratios ensure that all text color is easily visible against the background color for all users. 

To give an example of the importance of color contrast, font size, and various standards, the color contrast below uses a navy blue font against a gray background.

The overall contrast ratio of 4.74:1 passes WCAG AA but at certain sizes fails WCAG AAA. Font size and different standards may impact whether the contrast passes or fails. 

Accessibility color contrast ratio
Accessibility color contrast example for normal text

The Normal Text example above passes WCAG AA but fails WCAG AAA. This is because WCAG AA’s contrast ratio is 4.5:1 for normal text but WCAG AAA is 7:1.

Example of large text accessibility size and color contrast

The Large Text example above passes both WCAG AA and WCAG AAA. This is because WCAG AA’s contrast ratio is 3:1 for large text and WCAG AAA is 4.5:1.  

You can test font color contrast with this tool.

WCAG contrast ratios

WCAG 2.0 level AA contrast ratio requirements: 

  • 4.5:1 for normal text 
  • 3:1 for large text 

WCAG 2.1 contrast ratio requirements:  

  • 3:1 for any graphics and user interface elements 

WCAG Level AAA contrast ratio requirements: 

  • 7:1 for normal text 
  • 4.5:1 for large text

Font type and size

Use accessible fonts and sizes

Accessible Fonts 

  • Use Sans Serif fonts such as Arial and Helvetica
    • Sans Serif fonts do not use serifs, which are the small lines at the ends of the letter.
  • Avoid using Serif fonts such as Times New Roman and Garamond
    • Serif fonts use small lines or elements at the ends of the letter, which can be more difficult to read for some.
Sans Serif versus Serif example with the difference in style
  • Accessible Font Sizes According to WCAG
    • Minimum font size 12-14px.
    • Large font size is 18px and above.
    • Note: Some fonts are inherently larger than others even though they have the same px. Be sure that your font type and size are appropriate for accessibility.
    • Example: The fonts below show that while the font px is the same and both are Sans Serif, the overall size of the characters is different. The top line is Arial font and the line below it is Calibri.

Structure and Organization

  • Use headings, not just bolded font
      • Headings provide structure and hierarchy.
      • Headings should clearly define the intent of the subsequent elements within.
    • Don’t use headings out of order
      • Do: H1, H2, H3
      • Don’t: H1, H3, H2
  • Create actual lists, not just hyphens 
    • Make sure lists are numbered (ordered) or bulleted (unordered) because it helps assistive technologies, such as screen readers, understand the items on the list.
  • Use a consistent course layout
    • Providing a well-structured and consistent online course layout helps students navigate and understand course content.
    • Consistency also makes course content predictable – meaning students won’t miss course elements as they may in an unstructured, inconsistent format.
    • The “Do” layout example below uses headers, provides spacing between elements to avoid clutter and confusion, and provides context of what the course elements are.

Do:

Module 1: Online Learning

Module 1 Readings

  1. Study Tips (Word Doc)
  2. Testing Tips (PDF)

Module 1 Assignments

  1. Share your study tips (Forum Response)
  2. Share your testing tips (Word Doc Written Response)

Don’t

Module 1

  1. Study tips
  2. Testing tips
    • Share study tips
    • Testing tips document

Descriptive Hyperlink Text

  • Use descriptive link text that provides students with the context and purpose of the link.
  • Keep in mind that color alone isn’t enough to establish a link.

Do: Article 1 for Assignment 4, Module 6

Don’t: Click here

Accessible Multimedia in Online Classes

Multimedia in online classes, such as video and images, can provide an additional way for instructors to create a more engaging and interactive learning experience for students. However, if a student can’t see a video or hear what’s being communicated, they’re at a significant disadvantage. 

It’s crucial to remember that all video, audio, images, and any other multimedia content with text alternatives should have text alternatives such as captioning, transcripts, and descriptions. Text alternatives allow students to perceive and understand the course elements and content. Multimedia elements should also be usable and robust for accessible online learning.

For example, students should be able to pause, rewind, and forward the online course video using keyboard controls. The video should also be robust enough to work with any computer, cell phone, and LMS.

Accessible Multimedia in Online Classes

Accessible Video Captions

Captioning videos you don’t own

  • If the video is already captioned, check for accuracy
    • Review the videos and captions for accuracy before using them in your course.
    • Captions created by AI can be difficult to follow because they may be inaccurate or lack punctuation and capitalization.
    • Some sites, such as YouTube, allow you to use filters to narrow your search by only showing captioned videos.
  • If the video isn’t captioned, do it yourself
    • Search for video captioning tools such as Subtitle Horse, 3Play Media, and DotSub.
    • How to caption videos you created or own
      • Create the video transcript.
      • Upload the video transcript to the video hosting site.
      • Most video hosting sites, such as Youtube and Vimeo, allow you to sync the transcript with the video.
      • After the transcript is added, make corrections and adjust the timing to align the captions with the video. 

Captions vs Subtitles: Similar but different

While captions and subtitles are similar and display text on the screen, they’re not quite the same. 

What are captions?

  • Captions provide additional context to the audio in the video.
  • Captions include non-speech elements (a dog barking or a car horn) and identifying speakers.
    • Video Captioning Tip: Don’t overwhelm people with too much detail.
      • Provide enough detail and context to help the student understand but avoid too much detail because it can be overwhelming and distracting because it clutters the screen with unnecessary information.

What are subtitles?

    • Subtitles provide what is said in the video.
      • Video Subtitling Tip: Be accurate and use punctuation and capitalization.

Audio Descriptions and Transcripts

Audio descriptions describe important visual aspects of the video for those who are unable to see. This helps people with visual impairments understand what’s happening in the video.

What is an audio transcript? Audio transcripts are a text version of the content that captures spoken audio and provides important descriptions of visuals. 

  • Audio Transcript Tip: Similar to video captions, audio transcripts should be concise and not overwhelm the listener with too much information. Focus on the key elements of the visuals.

Descriptions for images

Similar to providing descriptions for video and audio, image text descriptions should provide the context and purpose of the image in about 125 characters or less.

Image Alt-Text Example:

Bad Alt-Text: Person hiking

Good Alt-Text: Man hiking up a steep mountain covered in snow while carrying a backpack

What not to use in your class

  • Don’t use online course content that flashes or blinks.
    • Content that flashes or blinks may cause seizures.
    • If the element must flash or blink, no more than three flashes/blinks in one second, according to WCAG.
  • Any motion animation, such as blinking, scrolling, etc., should be able to be disabled or stopped by the student.

Accommodations and Accessibility for Online Tests

What are accommodations for online tests?

Accommodations in an online test can mean many things such as extending time limits and adjusting due dates. Additionally, it can mean accommodating diverse learning styles needed to include all students and ensuring that your technologies can provide accessible learning. 

Accessible Online Tests

Timed online tests
Adjust the time limit for your online exams. For example, if the online test time limit is 50 minutes, some students may require 75 minutes for their exam. 

Some students may need accommodations for breaks. Be sure to build these break times into the total time limit for your exam. For example, if a student requires an online exam time limit accommodation of 75-minutes plus three 5-minute breaks, the total test time limit should be 90 minutes for that particular student.

Accessible Questions and Responses
Provide various ways to provide online test instructions, questions, and responses, such as audio, video, and written. Students should be able to communicate their responses in different ways. For example, if your exam requires a spoken portion, you should provide accommodations to accept sign language or written responses for those who cannot speak.

Adjusted Assignment Due Dates
Similar to accommodations for online test time limits, make sure any assignments take each student’s needs into account. Some students may need an extra day or week to complete the assignment.

Accessible Technology for Online Learning

What is Accessible Technology?

Accessible technology is software, hardware, multimedia, etc. that are accessible for any user regardless of their disability. Online learning technology includes a variety of common tools and platforms such as a learning management system (LMS), remote proctoring software, and video conferencing. It’s important to make sure that each technology is accessible and integrates/enables other needed technologies such as screen readers, captioning, and accommodations.

Learning Management System

Be sure that the LMS you’re using is accessible for various assistive technologies such as screen readers and allows keyboard navigation. Your LMS should allow you to create a fully accessible online class, manage accommodations, and integrate with other accessible online learning technologies. Be sure to review the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT)

Remote Proctoring Software

The use of remote proctoring software has significantly increased since the pandemic moved many universities and colleges to online learning. With the quick shift, make sure that the remote proctoring software allows accommodations for your online exams, conforms to guidelines and compliance standards, and routinely reviews accessibility. 

Remote Proctoring Accessibility Accommodations
Using remote proctoring to provide accessible online tests is crucial for your students’ success and creates an equal test experience. 

The remote proctoring software should specify accommodations for specific students, such as: 

  • John Doe is allowed to use multiple monitors during the exam 
  • Jane Smith will have an interpreter in the room
  • John Doe does not have a Photo ID, please bypass ID verification 
  • Jane Smith is allowed three 5-minute breaks 

Accessible Video Conferencing

Video conferencing is a great way to connect and engage your students in an online learning environment. If you plan to use video conferencing in your online class, be sure that the tool allows subtitles and captions to describe what’s on-screen and enables keyboard navigation. Keyword navigation should include shortcuts to raise their hand, mute/unmute audio, screen share, and chat.

Key takeaways for creating accessible online classes

  • Organize and structure your course content.
  • Use appropriate font colors, types, and sizes.
  • Any non-text course elements (e.g. audio, video, images) should have a text alternative such as captions, transcripts, and descriptions.
  • Offer online class content in various ways (video, audio, text).
  • All software (e.g. LMS & remote proctoring) and hardware (e.g. keyboards & screens) used in your online class should be accessible.
  • Provide appropriate accommodations for student needs.

Finish the 3-Part Accessibility Series

What is Web Accessibility and What are Compliance Standards?

Article on what web accessibility is and compliance standards

Just like your campus buildings and other physical locations have braille signs, wheelchair ramps, and elevators to provide access to everyone, think of your web and online class content in the same way – all users and students should be able to equally interact with your web content. Web accessibility ensures that all users, regardless of any disability, will have equal access and the ability to use websites, technologies, online course contents, and other tools.

Did you know that according to the CDC, about 1 in 4 people in the US have a disability? Disabilities come in many forms such as visual, auditory, cognitive, learning, physical, and neurological.

Color Blindness Web Accessibility Example

The image below provides an example of how disabilities, such as color blindness and color deficiency, can impact a student’s ability to accurately interpret your online content. The CDC reported that about 4.6% of the US population has a vision disability – that’s over 15 million people based on the US population.

example of how font color contrast can impact web accessibility

With the example above in mind, imagine that you have a color blindness, such as Monochromatic View or Dichromatic View, and you’re taking an online exam and the instructor encourages you to only pay attention to the blue and green text and ignore the red text. It can be nearly impossible for some to decipher the differences. 

This is one small example of the web accessibility challenges that students with disabilities face when using the web for online classes. 

Web Accessibility

What is web accessibility?

Web accessibility means that every user has a barrier-free learning experience with online web content. Creating accessible online class content means being aware and understanding how users with disabilities learn and interact with that content.

When an online course is created with a thoughtful, inclusive, and accessible approach, all students have an equal opportunity to learn and interact with content.

Web Accessibility Compliance Standards

There are many web accessibility compliance standards, and we’ll focus on some of the most common ones in this section. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) develops and maintains international Web standards called W3C Recommendations. W3C’s standards are used in development processes for common accessibility compliance standards and guidelines such as ADA, WCAG, Section 508, UAAG, and ATAG.

W3C

What is WC3?

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is a community group of members, staff, and the public working in unison to create, develop, and maintain Web Accessibility standards that create a “web for all”. W3C’s goal is to provide equal access and opportunity regardless of the person’s mental or physical ability, hardware, software, location, and language. Learn more about W3C.

W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)

WAI is an initiative of W3C that develops web accessibility standards and creates support materials for ongoing learning and community knowledge sharing. This allows users and organizations to better understand web accessibility and implement best practices.

ADA Compliance

What is ADA compliance?

The Department of Justice created the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design in September 2010. These standards ensure that all users of electronic information and technology will have equal accessibility regardless of their disability. ADA covers a variety of web accessibility areas such as ensuring text design and hyperlinks are readable and easy to view, images have alt text describing the image and purpose, and that audio/video is clear, consistent, and provides written transcription.

Who should follow ADA compliance standards?

ADA encompasses many industries and organizations such as private employers, public organizations (such as schools and universities), and various levels of government agencies. ADA advocates that organizations should self-regulate their web accessibility standards and are encouraged to use WCAG guidelines as well. ADA compliance information.

WCAG

What is WCAG?

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is a technical standard developed with the W3C process. WCAG’s goal is to create a shared standard for web content that’s accessible for all users. Web content refers to information on the website page such as text, images, sounds, code, and structure.

Who is WCAG for? 

WCAG is for developers of course and web content, content authoring tools, and accessibility evaluation tools. WCAG information.

Section 508 Compliance

What is Section 508?

Section 508 is a federal requirement for organizations to create and maintain accessible information and communications technology (ICT) to people who have disabilities – even if they do not work for the federal government. Section 508 compliance also includes accessible online training and websites.

ICT covers a broad spectrum of hardware, systems, and software such as all phones, video players, television, internet and intranet, webinars and virtual conferencing, operating systems, files, and more. Section 508 compliance information and details.

UAAG

What is UAAG? 

The User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG) documents are developed and maintained by the User Agent Accessibility Guidelines Working Group. This web accessibility group works within W3C and WAI. 

UAAG provides specific guidance for User Agents that render web content such as browsers, browser extensions, media players, and readers. While many modern browsers now cover UAAG specifications, consistency is crucial to successfully and reliably support web accessibility across all browsers and other User agents. 

Who is UAAG for?

UAAG is beneficial for anyone that works to improve web accessibility and is specifically relevant for developers of internet browsers, browser extensions, media players, and other user agents. UUAG information.

ATAG

What is ATAG?

Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG) refer to software and tools that web authors used to create web content. ATAG makes the authoring tools accessible for the author and helps them use the tools to create accessible content. ATAG information.

What are Web Authoring Tools?

  • Web page authoring tools such as HTML editors
  • Content Management Systems such as WordPress
  • Learning Management Systems such as Blackboard and Canvas
  • Multimedia tools 
  • Social media and forums

Who is ATAG for?

ATAG is mainly for developers that use authoring tools but it’s also useful for others who are choosing new tools for their organization or updating technologies.

What are the four categories of accessibility?

Web content must be POUR to provide web accessibility for all users.

Accessibility is often categorized by four principles.

Perceivable

Operable

Understandable

Robust

Every user and student must be able to perceive, operate, understand web and online course content through robust technology that is consistently designed around web accessibility in all areas and methods of delivery.

Perceivable Accessibility

Perceivable accessibility means that all users can identify and interact with online elements by the senses. 

Perceivable Web Accessibility Example: Many students perceive online course content visually, but for others, it can be by sound or touch.

Operable Accessibility

Operable accessibility refers to users having the ability to interact with the web content by the use of controls, buttons, navigation, and other interactive elements.

Operable Web Accessibility Example: Students are able to click content within the online class, while others may utilize keyboard or voice commands to interact with the course content.

Understandable Accessibility

Understandable accessibility means that in addition to being able to operate the interface, users can comprehend and understand the information. Understandable information should be consistent and appropriate in format and design across all methods of delivery (text, audio, video, etc.).

Understandable Web Accessibility Example: If an online class or website uses abbreviations or acronyms that are not defined, students and other users may misunderstand the content. 

Robust Accessibility

Robust accessibility means that the content must be robust enough to be used across various technologies. Robust accessible content can be accurately interpreted and interacted with across websites, multimedia, and other web formats. 

Robust Web Accessibility Example: If a particular document format isn’t accessible for screen readers, some students and users will not be able to utilize the document.

Web Accessibility is More Important Than Ever

By creating all of your online course content with web accessibility in mind, you’re helping to create an equal learning experience for each and every student. Having accessible online class content is a must in today’s rapidly advancing remote learning environment. Be sure to use the web accessibility compliance standards and guidelines to help create, develop, and continually maintain all of your online course content.

Accessibility Checkers and Compliance Testing

Here are a few web accessibility checkers and compliance testing links to help you when you’re creating your online course content.

WCAG Compliance Checker

Accessibility Color Checkers

Website Accessibility Checker

Video Captioning Tools for Web Accessibility

Microsoft Office Web Accessibility Checker

Functional Web Accessibility Evaluator

Finish the 3-Part Accessibility Series

Is a VPAT Enough? How to Reduce Accessibility Barriers for Students, Faculty and Staff

If you or your institution want to know whether a product such as online exam proctoring software is accessible for those with disabilities, either before or after you’ve settled on a purchase, you’ll be likely to be reviewing a VPAT.

The question will arise, “Who should be reviewing a VPAT?” Note that reviewing and evaluating accessibility documentation requires familiarity with accessibility standards and barriers. The expectation that this responsibility belongs solely to procurement staff, or to the faculty, or to the disability services office may lead to greater institutional problems.

What is a VPAT?

The Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) is a document from a Washington-based policy group that provides a standardized reporting format for product accessibility conformance. The document format undergoes small modifications based on feedback from industry partners.

When the VPAT is used to report accessibility conformance of a product, the completed document is known as the Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR). The term ACR is more correct and represents the completed document. However, the term VPAT is commonly used to represent an ACR.

Just Compliance?

An institution of higher education may review products for conformance with accessibility standards, such as the Revised 508 Standards, as part of its obligation to ensure accessibility of information and communication technology, also known as ICT.  Two crucial steps towards ensuring accessibility compliance include:

  • Working with vendors to remove accessibility barriers identified in products, and
  • Developing plans to “Provide individuals with disabilities access to and use of information and data by alternate means that meets identified needs” (E202.7.2 Alternative Means, Revised 508 Standards).

Keep in mind, developing alternate access plans is about removing barriers that could otherwise cause delays for students, faculty, and staff with disabilities, as well as compliance. You can see how important these plans are when it comes to remote exam proctoring solutions. The last thing you want is to create obstacles or delays at exam time.

What is an Alternate Access Plan?

An Equally Effective Alternate Access Plan (EEAAP) describes what an institution will do when an ICT product does not meet its minimum accessibility standards. An EEAAP identifies how access to the product will be provided when a person with a disability were to use it by answering the following questions:

  • What is the access barrier?
  • Who is affected by the access barrier?
  • Who is responsible for the plan?
  • How will equal access be provided?
  • What resources are necessary to provide equal access?
  • When will the vendor remove the access barriers?

It is important to note that EEAAPs are general plans. Any qualified individual with a disability still has the same rights to request individualized accommodations through the institution’s reasonable accommodation process beyond what the EEAAP proposes. 

Consider a product with videos that are not captioned. The EEAAP may include a stipulation for using institutional resources to caption the current set of videos while the vendor builds in captioned videos to the next product update. This provision does not mean that an individual might not still request ASL interpreting when using the product.

College of the Desert’s EEAAP (opens PDF) and San Francisco State University’s EEAAP (opens PDF) are just two helpful examples of EEAAPs in use at colleges and universities around the country.

Accessibility Reviews

There are several options for accessibility reviews. The type of review for evaluating accessibility used by an institution may depend on the availability of information and institutional resources. Each review process provides different information and has pros and cons.  In all cases, incomplete or contradictory information will lead to questions for the vendor and may identify the need for alternate access plans.

Accessibility reviews include:

  1. VPAT review and taking the information at face value
  2. Product testing by staff familiar with accessibility
  3. Vendor product demonstration
  4. In-house product accessibility evaluation
  5. Third-party product accessibility audit
  6. User testing of a product by various users of assistive technology

You won’t be surprised that taking the information in a VPAT at face value when it has been self-reported by a vendor may not be the most reliable or accurate method of evaluating accessibility for a product. Then again, doing so is probably the fastest way to review a product, at least initially.

A VPAT review could take a few hours. Contrast this with the several weeks it could take to conduct an in-depth evaluation of the product or to contract a third-party to evaluate the product. While such evaluations could result in more accurate information, depending on the product, there could also be delays for all users or delays in providing alternate access to users with disabilities.

What to Look for in a VPAT

Simply having a VPAT available for a product does not mean the document includes usable information. The information in a VPAT needs to be relevant to an institution’s accessibility conformance review process.

VPAT Editions

There are four editions of the VPAT.  When an institution has adopted the revised Section 508 standards as its minimum accessibility standards for ICT, it is important to review the Revised Section 508 Edition of the VPAT.  Otherwise, the product accessibility information may be incomplete.

For instance, Section 508 standards apply to hardware ICT as well as web content.  If the VPAT WCAG edition for web content is used to report the accessibility conformance of hardware, information describing how the ICT meets hardware standards would probably be missing.

VPAT Version

VPAT 2.4 is the current version. Prior to version 2.0, the information in the VPAT will not reference the revised Section 508 standards. Therefore, the information may be incomplete and difficult to match up with the tools used as part of an institution’s process of evaluating accessibility.

Date Completed

Web content, as well as software and hardware products, changes regularly.  The accessibility documentation should be updated to reflect product development.  The VPAT should therefore be a recent report, from at least within the last 12 months.

VPAT Evaluation Methods Used

The VPAT should identify the evaluation methods used to complete the report. It should answer the questions:

  • What automated tools were used?
  • What manual evaluation techniques were conducted?
  • What browsers and assistive technologies were used?
  • And by whom?

Remarks and Explanations

Vendors report a conformance level for each success criterion. If the conformance level is “Partially Supports” or “Does Not Support”, the remarks should identify:

  • The functions or features with accessibility barriers
  • How the product does not fully support the criterion
  • A roadmap for the vendor to remove the access barriers
  • If the criterion does not apply, an explanation as to why
  • If an accessible alternative is used, a description of it

The roadmap or timeframe from the vendor for removing the accessibility barriers is not included in the VPAT instructions for vendors, but rather, it is information that institutions need to include in alternate access plans as part of Section 508 compliance.

Accessibility Review Example

Let’s consider the first WCAG 2.0 level A success criterion, 1.1.1 Not-text Content.  The first part of 1.1.1 states “All non-text content that is presented to the user has a text alternative that serves the equivalent purpose,” then lists specific exceptions. 

When a success criterion is complex, it helps to ask several questions that address all the requirements for the success criterion. This is part of the approach used by the Section 508 Trusted Tester Conformance Test Process Version 5.

  • Question: Does the accessible name and accessible description for a meaningful image provide an equivalent description of the image?

An equivalent description for a meaningful image could be provided in alt text for images or in other types of text alternatives.  For example, a link to an accessible table of data might be provided for a chart.  It is important to note that only a human can determine whether the description is equivalent.

  • Vendor’s answer: Supports; The product uses standard HTML and WAI-ARIA techniques to provide text equivalents for all visual elements. This includes the attributes “alt”, “aria-label”, and “aria-describedby”.

Results

The vendor states that text equivalents are provided for all visual elements. However, the vendor does not state how it was determined that the text descriptions are equivalent for meaningful images.

It would be helpful if the vendor described the process that is used to ensure text descriptions are equivalent.  Otherwise, images could have file names or nonsense text and still pass a test with an automated tool. 

In this case, the vendor states the product conformance level is “Supports” for the success criterion. Taken at face value, the statement indicates no need for alternate access. However, if the VPAT Evaluation Methods Used does not give the reviewer confidence in the vendor’s process, the reviewer might ask the vendor for clarification.

Conclusion

If this VPAT is being reviewed by taking the information reported by the vendor at face value, even though the conformance level for the success criterion reported by the vendor is “Supports,” alternate access may be needed. It will depend on what additional information the vendor provides or if other testing identifies accessibility barriers related to this success criterion.

Disability Justice

With most technology there will usually still be a need for accommodations for those with disabilities. This reality does not have to be a barrier for institutions as they meet their accessibility goals and obligations. Instead, each time an institution reviews ICT, including web proctoring software, that review can be a beneficial part of a collective effort to reduce accessibility barriers for students, faculty, and staff anywhere the product is used.

This blog post was written by Nicolás M. Crisosto, Accessibility Specialist. You can watch his webinar by clicking this link: VPATs, Accessibility Conformance Reports, and Developing Alternate Access Plans

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