In an effort to ensure vendor compliance with Section 508, some libraries have begun requesting Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates (VPATs) or other documentation of accessibility compliance. The purpose of this paper is to assess the accuracy of vendor-supplied compliance documentation, and to identify common accessibility issues highlighted by the VPATs. A detailed discussion of vendor responses to each Section 508 checkpoint is provided in the Appendix.
Researchers compared 17 VPATs with the results of an automated accessibility scan to identify inconsistencies and common problems.
Vendors reported being fully compliant with 64 percent of the applicable VPAT items, and partially compliant with a further 24 percent. However, in 16 of 17 cases, there were discrepancies between the information on the VPAT and the results of the scan. Of the total 189 VPAT checkpoints the author scanned, 19.6 percent had errors (meaning the information on the VPAT was inaccurate 19.6 percent of the time).
Several VPAT checkpoints could not be automatically verified by the scan. Instead they require manual/visual verification, which the author did not do. Because the author only scanned three pages of each resource, the author was not able to check all content.
Vendor-supplied accessibility documentation should not be taken at face value, but requires verification and follow up to ensure its accuracy. This study also identified some of the most common accessibility issues, which will help both librarians and vendors improve their products and services.
Other studies have analyzed the accessibility of library resources and specifically vendor databases, but none have assessed the accuracy of vendor-supplied Section 508 compliance documentation.
The author wishes to thank Shaden Melky, WKU Library Technology Consultant, for her assistance in this project.
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