Introduction to web accessibility
Digital technology accessibility is essential when considering library purchases to achieve equitable and inclusive service and access to resources. The information on this web page will help libraries understand web accessibility and how to vet resources.
As outlined by the W3C – World Wide Web Consortium, web accessibility means "that websites, tools, and technologies are designed and developed so people with disabilities can use them." Examples of web accessibility features include:
- Captions on videos
- Text with accessible color contrast, readable by people with color blindness or low vision
- Structural markup in code that supports screen readers, use of keyboard controls, and other assistive technologies
- Content of web pages appear and operate in a predictable way
- Descriptive instructions and an opportunity to correct, review, or reverse action
These features also benefit people who do not have disabilities or identify as having a disability. For example, support of keyboard-only controls benefits people with mobility issues and "power users" who prefer keyboard shortcuts. Many accessibility features also help users on mobile devices or slow internet connections.
Learn more about web accessibility
Evaluating resources with a VPAT
The standards for web accessibility evaluation are the WCAG – Web Content Accessibility Guidelines from the W3C – and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which references the WCAG standards.
To ensure libraries meet web accessibility standards when purchasing electronic resources, many vendors offer a VPAT – Voluntary Product Accessibility Template, which can aid in assessing how the product meets Section 508.
A VPAT is a form provided by the ITI – Information Technology Industry Council that vendors use to create an ACR – Accessibility Conformance Report. Although the ACR is the completed VPAT, vendors and manufacturers commonly refer to both as VPAT.
Each completed VPAT will contain the product description, the evaluation methods used, and notes with further details. When a vendor has provided an ACR or a completed VPAT, it is essential to read through and evaluate. While a VPAT can aid in assessing how the product meets Section 508, it does not mean that the product complies with accessibility standards.
The body of the VPAT contains a set of tables with the criteria evaluated along with the conformance level and remarks or notes. When reading through a VPAT, look for any criteria that only partially support, do not support, or are not applicable or evaluated. When vetting resources for accessibility, asking vendors for the VPAT, and reading the VPAT is the first step. It is also important to note the latest date of the completed VPAT and whether the vendor did an internal evaluation or hired a company to audit their resources.
The VPATs on this page are posted with vendor permission. Accessibility statements, if available, from the vendor are also included. This page is available for all RAILS libraries. The information on this page is maintained by volunteers and kept up to date. If you have a more recent VPAT or accessibility statement from a vendor, please submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on web accessibility, visit these resources.