How Can Section 508 VPAT Help EdTech Products to Address Accessibility?

  • 7.10.2022
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    Understanding Section 508 VPAT

    Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act was enacted to remove obstacles in information technology, to open up new opportunities for individuals with disabilities, and to promote the development of technologies that will assist in achieving these goals. The use of accessible electronic and information technology (EIT) is mandated for all federal government agencies.

    All federal agencies are required by law to provide employees and members of the public with disabilities access to information that is equivalent to that available to people without disabilities. All federal agencies that create, acquire, manage, or employ electronic or information technology are subject to the statute.

    In response to Section 508, the Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC) created a template known as the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT). A leading EdTech products scholar was asked a question, “What is a VPAT in the discourse about Section 508?” This is a question that many EdTech product developers and users grapple with, and one that requires addressing.

    The Section 508 VPAT for EdTech products is a component of a larger ecosystem for VPAT compliance that helps federal contracting officials, prospective buyers of IET products, and suppliers of EIT products in conducting preliminary evaluations of the Section 508 compliance of their electronic hardware and software.

    What are EdTech products?

    EdTech, or education technology, is the practice of integrating information and communication technology resources into the classroom to produce more engaging, inclusive, and personalized learning experiences. EdTech products combine information technology (IT) tools and educational practices with the goal of facilitating and enhancing learning.

    With EdTech robots, virtual reality courses, and gamified classroom activities that now saturate the learning environment and make it simpler for students to stay engaged through enjoyable forms of learning, the surge of EdTech products is transforming classrooms.

    EdTech Internet of Things (IOT) devices have received praise in particular for their ability to provide students access to virtual classrooms whether they are physically present in school or not. Tools for machine learning and block chain have not lagged behind either, since they have been useful in assisting teachers with test grading and holding students accountable for their homework.

    All of these EdTech products must be certified as Section 508 compliant in order to guarantee that they provide users with disabilities with the same learning opportunities as users without disabilities. As a result, Section 508 compliance certification is required for all organizations that provide EdTech products that their staff and students utilize to access and share learning resources.

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      Section 508 compliance VPAT for EdTech products

      ICT product providers, who take their business seriously, including EdTech product vendors, strive to persuade the federal government to utilize their products. This is because when the federal government uses your product, it scores highly in terms of acceptability with regard to VPAT compliance. 

      Section 508 VPAT is required for EdTech products to be used by the federal government. Here’s how having the VPAT helps the EdTech products address any issues of accessibility they may have:

      • Comparison of similar EdTech products

      Buyers of EdTech products can use Section 508 compliance VPATs to analyze the compliance of similar products and choose the ones that best satisfy their desired accessibility standards as well as their functional and legal needs. This enables EdTech products that the buyers might not have selected to be reviewed by their owners so as to address the accessibility issues that prevented their products from being chosen.

      • Identification of accessibility improvement areas in EdTech products

      Although EdTech product vendors may be aware of accessibility issues with their products, they may lack the motivation to address them. That is where a VPAT helps. It compels such vendors to move from the mere awareness of the accessibility challenge in their product to taking action toward enhanced accessibility of the product.

      By making the vendor aware of the opportunities they would miss if the non-compliance concerns in their EdTech products were not addressed, the VPAT instills a sense of urgency in them. This is because the VPAT accurately outlines where the improvement in accessibility needs to be made on the product.

      • Prioritization of areas for accessibility improvement

      Vendors of EdTech products can easily create a clear priority list for addressing the accessibility concerns found in their products with the help of a Section 508 VPAT. This is usually the case in circumstances where the seller becomes overburdened trying to decide which enhancements to implement first. Based on the levels of severity found during the VPAT audit stage, the Section 508 VPAT will assist you in understanding what has to be done immediately.

      • Proof of conformance

      Due to the EdTech sector’s amazing growth and businesses’ desire to capitalize quickly on it, there is intense competition in the sector. As a result, vendors that have created VPAT ACRs for their products demonstrate that they have made the decision to invest time and money in developing accessible products, which is a great selling point for them.

      This builds trust among users of such vendors’ products, which makes them more likely to be perceived as aware of the accessibility issues, empathetic to people with disabilities, and proactive in ensuring equal access to ICT products. This can increase customer adherence to the vendor’s EdTech offerings and guarantee revenues.

      • Insights about the EdTech product’s accessibility baseline

      A business can better understand how well its EdTech products adhere to Section 508 accessibility criteria by developing a Section 508 VPAT. Knowledge of the baseline will continually inspire the business to make accessibility improvements during the process of updating the product. This continuous desire to deal with issues that enhance the quality of the product eventually contributes to the product’s improved accessibility over time.

      Need help with creating or updating the VPAT for your EdTech product?

      If you have a new EdTech product or an EdTech product whose VPAT is outdated, you can get help to assess its accessibility and fill out or update its Section 508 VPAT. For more information on how you could be assisted, call us at (626) 486-2201 or contact us by clicking here to make your inquiry.