An Update on VPAT Accessibility for the Education Sector’s Electronic and Information Technology Products and Services

  • 26.11.2022
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    Inclusive education

    Disability is arguably one of the most significant barriers to education worldwide. Providing inclusive education is, therefore, the most effective strategy to ensure that all learners have a fair chance to study and develop the skills they need to flourish.

    Inclusive education means that all learners, regardless of disability or status, have comparable learning and educational experiences. Inclusive systems recognize the contributions that all types of learners bring to the learning environment and allow diverse groups of learners to develop alongside one another for the benefit of all.

    Inclusive educational systems take time and require everyone’s help to inspire the underlying changes in society. At the learning institution level, teachers or course instructors should be trained, the infrastructure should be updated, and accessible learning materials should be provided.

    Stigma and discrimination must be addressed at the community level, and individuals must be educated on the benefits of inclusive education. National governments must align laws and policies with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and collect, evaluate, and update data and inclusion tools on a regular basis to guarantee learners receive appropriate educational services. 

    Closing the gap in inclusive education through accessible EIT products

    Gone are the days when the only way to get a good education was to attend a traditional school with a brick-and-mortar structure. The introduction of COVID-19 demonstrated to the world that we have the infrastructure to provide online learning. Online learning systems not only allow people to access great education from anywhere, but they also present a golden opportunity to close the inclusive education gap.

    Because of its flexibility, capacity to offer a wide variety of programs, accessibility, allowing for a tailored learning experience, and lower cost-effectiveness than traditional education, online learning is the future of education. The battle for accessibility in education, as well as the promotion of inclusive education, must consequently center on maintaining accessible online learning platforms.

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      Section 508 and the realization of accessible online learning platforms

      Although Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act does not apply to websites, many non-federal websites must be accessible under other regulations, such as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act or state or local laws.

      Section 504 forbids discrimination based on disability by federal government agencies as well as all beneficiaries of federal assistance. If your educational institution gets federal support or help, your website must be accessible.

      Furthermore, if you are an education provider who receives funding from funding agencies, it may be prudent to determine their requirement to make your websites and other communications accessible, because most of them receive federal government assistance and are required to ensure the accessibility of their websites and those of the organizations they support. Conformance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is required for the accessibility of websites and web-based technologies.

      WCAG and digital accessibility in education

      To effectively address the needs of learners with disabilities, most educational institutions are shifting their online learning platforms toward the WCAG standard. Regardless of whether federal restrictions apply to you, it is best practice to design online education electronic and information technology (EIT) products and services, such as web-based platforms, to provide a consistent user experience for all users. It also assists your institution in better meeting the needs of all present and potential customers.

      It takes a lot of research, hard work, and constant vigilance to ensure that educational EIT products or services are accessible. This could be the reason why an increasing number of educational institutions are facing lawsuits. T there has been a 30% increase in web accessibility lawsuits, with educational institutions being a significant component of those being sued.

      The extent of what must be accessible in education is ever increasing and becoming more complex, from students logging in to check their curriculum to attending online classes to correspondence with parents, among other things. Education institutions are likewise constantly challenged to widen the breadth of their digital platforms in order to meet ever-rising educational requirements. This means integrating a wide range of EIT products and services, including assistive devices, which significantly increases their risks to litigation.

      Monitoring of accessibility in learning institutions

      The Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education is in charge of ensuring that no student is discriminated against in any learning institution. Learning institutions must, therefore, prioritize digital accessibility in education. when using EIT educational products and services such as web-based learning tools. This is accomplished by committing to VPAT accessibility.

      VPAT accessibility in education

      VPAT accessibility in education refers to the proper design, development, and coding of websites, web tools, and other EIT products and services used to deliver learning so that learners with disabilities may use them comfortably. It was about ensuring that all learners, including those with disabilities, perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the websites, web tools, and other EIT products and services that support their learning and contribute to making them accessible.

      For developers of websites, web-tools, and other EIT products and services used in education, VPAT accessibility means adhering to the established accessibility standards and guidelines as embodied in the criteria and technical specifications in the appropriate edition of the accessibility VPAT form to produce high-quality products and services that do not exclude learners with disabilities from using them or gaining similar experiences in using them as learners without disabilities.

      It also entails filling out the VPAT accessibility conformance report (ACR) accurately, precisely, and completely in order to assist learners in understanding the accessibility aspects of the EIT products and services available for use in learning. All students, including those with auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, verbal, and visual challenges, should be able to access the VPAT ACR.

      Key solutions to digital accessibility in education

      Learning institutions should conduct regular manual audits or automatic scans of their website and other web-based learning resources to maintain digital accessibility in education. Hiring a third-party with expertise in digital accessibility in education to test the accessibility of your online learning resources and make suggestions to maximize accessibility is the best way to avoid lawsuits over accessibility issues.

      Update the VPAT accessibility of your education EIT products and services

      We can help you update the VPAT accessibility of your education website, web-based tools, and other EIT products and services that support education. To speak with one of our experienced education VPAT ACR professionals, please utilize our contact page or call (626) 486-2201.