What a VPAT reveals about Learnosity’s approach to accessibility

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“Are you fully accessible and do you have a VPAT?”

That has to be the most commonly asked question I get as the Product Manager responsible for Learnosity’s accessibility.

The most direct response is: it’s next to impossible to be fully accessible. It’s a dynamic, evolving area. But we invest more time, effort, and resources into it than any other particular part of the product. And yes, we do have a VPAT.

But the real answer is more nuanced than that, because the question itself is flawed.

Accessibility is complicated 

Most people really don’t quite understand just how complex an area accessibility really is. 

You’re not just accounting for one disability with inclusive design, you need to account for a range of disabilities: visual, physical, auditory, speech, neurological (disability related to the central or peripheral nervous system), and cognitive (intellectual disability). 

In reality, full accessibility is impossible for us because some of our question types don’t lend themselves to all types of disabilities. 

For example, our drawing question type offers full keyboard control, so keyboard-only users can interact with it. But while a visually impaired user can use a keyboard, they’d struggle to complete tasks using this question type simply because of its visual nature.

Our drawing question type in action.
The compass being used within our drawing question type.

So what’s a VPAT?

A VPAT (or Voluntary Product Accessibility Template) is, as its name suggests, a voluntary document that states our conformance to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). 

It lists all of the standards (in this case WCAG 2.1) that are relevant to our product, how we comply with them, and states whether our product meets, partially meets, or does not meet each standard.

While a VPAT helps us communicate our efforts, you need to be aware that it’s a very high level overview of our product’s overall accessibility. 

The current VPAT covers 19 of our base question types (44 question templates) and the assessment player. As all of these are grouped together under the compliance for each criterion, the VPAT doesn’t communicate on a granular level. A rating of “partially meets compliance” to one of the standards is not necessarily referent to all included question types and the player. 

Here’s an analogy. Let’s say you get your car assessed for roadworthiness and one of the criteria to meet is that the “tyres are adequate”. If one tyre is failing but the criterion is for all tyres, you won’t meet that requirement. The detail needed there is “back left tyre is unroadworthy”.  

We have this detail available in addition to our VPAT and we’re always willing to discuss it, as well as our plans to address anything still outstanding.

Rising demand for more inclusivity in edtech

Our customers face the same challenges we face: legacy systems and functionality that weren’t built with accessibility at the fore, combined with a fast-growing need to offer accessible products for both ethical and contractual reasons. 

We work closely with our clients to help them achieve their accessibility goals. Our white-labelled APIs are integrated with our clients’ products, so they rely on us to ensure our functionality is accessible. 

We empower our clients by giving them flexibility where needed to control more aspects of their content’s accessibility.

This work, which is constantly evolving, is driven by both client requests and our own impetus to offer the same flexibility for accessibility content as we do for any content.

The never-ending story 

Our job is far from done. There’s no definitive endpoint for achieving accessibility in assessment – it’s always evolving, so it’ll always be a consideration.

The WCAG guidelines are continually updating to cover broader and deeper guidance for accessibility support. For example, the WCAG 2.2 draft covers further support for users with cognitive disability. 

We’ve invested, and continue to invest, extensive resources into retrofitting a large amount of legacy features for accessibility. This is a huge task, but we’re committed to improving this process continuously – which is why inclusive design is one of our key design principles.

We’re not perfect, but we’re passionate, committed, and always evolving. Click To Tweet

We’ve engaged the services of a third-party auditor to help us with this journey, while also educating and upskilling our product teams, as well as setting processes to ensure that all new product development  includes accessibility from the very beginning.

As technology changes and improves, with ARIA and HTML continuing to evolve along with screen reader and browser support, we can leverage those changes to improve in tandem. 

We’re not perfect, but we’re passionate, committed, and always evolving.

Want to see our VPAT?

To obtain a copy of our VPAT and further information on any existing gaps, our customers can contact their Customer Support representative. If you’re not an existing customer, email inbound@learnosity.com to request a walkthrough of our VPAT with a member of our team.

Adam Bexstream

Product Manager

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