VPAT Accessibility for Software and App Developers: Why Software and App Users with Disabilities Need Equal Access

  • 18.03.2023

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    How software and app development can advance accessibility in ICT

    Are you involved in developing software for computers, smartphones, and other devices? Do you test systems to make sure they work properly and correct defects as you find them?

    If you answered, “yes” to the questions above, you are a cornerstone in the drive to make information and communication technology (ICT) accessible to everyone, including people who have disabilities.

    This requires making sure that the software and apps you create or modify can be used by people with disabilities in a manner that is equivalent to how people without disabilities can use them. That is what the accessibility of apps and software typically refers to.

    Designing or modifying an app or software to include a text-to-speech feature that enables people with limited vision abilities to enjoy the app’s or software’s benefits in a way that is equal to or comparable to what people without disabilities derive from the product is an example of ensuring accessibility of apps and software.

    Ensuring VPAT accessibility for your apps or software

    The surefire approach to making sure your apps or software products are accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities, is through VPAT accessibility.

    You may be asking yourself, “What is VPAT accessibility?” VPAT accessibility is a term used in reference to the inclusive practices and actions associated with using a voluntary product accessibility template (VPAT) to identify and remove the obstacles that prevent people with disabilities from interacting with and accessing electronic and information technology (EIT) products or services.

    VPAT accessibility for apps or software products begins with understanding the market you intend to supply your apps and software products to. Knowledge of the market helps you choose the correct edition of the accessibility VPAT to use during the VPAT certification of your app or software. This is due to the fact that various ICT markets have distinct accessibility standards and guidelines, which the corresponding editions of the VPAT document help anchor.

    For instance, if you want the U.S. federal government, its departments and agencies, as well as the organizations funded by the federal government, to be able to purchase or use your app or software product, a suitably accessible VPAT will require using the VPAT 508 template when testing your app’s or software’s accessibility and when developing your VPAT report.

    In order to ensure that users of the products have equal access to them or access that provides them with benefits that are comparable to those enjoyed by people without disabilities, VPAT accessibility is therefore a crucial pathway that every app or software developer of a modifier needs to keep in mind throughout the process of designing and developing their app or software product. 

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      Why software and app users need to prioritize accessibility

      Technology has evolved to the point where conducting daily business, such as banking, interacting with government agencies, or making retail purchases, is significantly dependent on ICT.

      At the root of these technological advances is the need to exchange information and the fact that this information should be available to all people, including the visually impaired, the hearing impaired, and those with other forms of disabilities.

      If you’re an app or software developer and you don’t plan for the accessibility features you must include in your product from the start, you’re going to have problems.

      This is due to the fact that these features are in high demand from a variety of users, and if included up front, their cost is low. If you put off retrofitting accessibility into your software or apps, the cost will be expensive, and you risk losing clients.

      Accessibility of software and apps from the viewpoint of users with disabilities

      According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 15% of the world’s population has some form of disability. As an app or software developer, this is a significant segment of the market that you don’t want to miss out on by ignoring accessibility.

      Besides the benefits you’ll get by tapping into the huge disability market, as a concerned app or software developer, it is important to keep in mind that your app or software may be routinely used by anyone, including people with disabilities.

      While you may be comfortable operating your computer with the help of a mouse and keyboard, keep in mind that there is someone who needs to get similar benefits by being able to control their computer with their voice because they don’t have limbs to enable them to navigate the computer using the mouse and keyboard.

      Here are five key reasons why software and app users with disabilities require equal access:

      1. Equitable access

      In the past, software and app development easily got away with ignoring accessibility or treating it as an afterthought. With the increase in accessibility litigation, the increased spotlight on accessibility in general, and the creation of accessibility standards for accessible ICT, the software and app development business is on notice.

      More and more software and app businesses now understand that practicing inclusive design in their software and apps, as well as prioritizing accessibility during their development, is simply the right thing to do.

      The advocacy for equitable access to ICT is making software and app development practitioners appreciate that anything short might be considered, legally or professionally, discrimination against people with disabilities.

      1. Improved usability

      Equal access to an app or software ensures that the product does not exclude the huge market of people with disabilities from your potential market pool. Ensuring accessibility of software and apps through inclusive design improves their usability by people with disabilities.

      Even if it is not a business’ intention to integrate accessibility into its software and app, it is noteworthy to keep in mind that accessible software and apps tend to be inherently user-friendly, which enables more users, including those with disabilities, to have options that they prefer within the software or app.

      When more and more accessible options are integrated into software or apps, it boosts the accessibility of the apps or software, which improves the user experience.

      1. Legal requirements

      With the various existing accessibility standards and guidelines underpinning how ICT products should be accessible to everyone, there is no excuse for a business to ignore its obligations for promoting inclusive experiences in its software and app products.

      Increasingly more and more administrative jurisdictions are developing legal and regulatory foundations to push accessibility to high priority levels for all ICT products and services, including the design and development of apps and software products.

      1. Broadened user reach

      Equal user access to software and apps ensures that the apps or software reach more users. More users of an app or software translate to more potential customers and increased profit for the business.

      Revenue-driven businesses have to embrace inclusive design for broadened user reach and increased profits.

      1. Boosting the reputation of users with disabilities

      When companies that develop software and apps prioritize VPAT accessibility, it brings to the forefront issues that people with disabilities encounter with products and services that are not accessible.

      When people interact with software and apps with features that make them more accessible to people with disabilities, they’re able to appreciate the challenges people with disabilities go through, thus boosting their reputation and increasing everybody’s contribution to accessibility.

      Make inclusive design a priority in your software and app design today

      Need help establishing the extent to which your app or software is accessible? Talk to our VPAT consultant today by calling (626) 486-2201 to schedule an appointment to discuss your software or app accessibility needs. We’ll provide you with a quick VPAT report demonstrating the level of accessibility of your software or app.