When you have a platform that delivers content to several million users each year, it is critically important that every user can get access when they need it. Whether it is VitalSource® Access powering their course content with day-one availability, supporting partners like Follett, Barnes & Noble and many others, or simply powering the publisher or storefront that directly sells to the learner, we work hard to ensure content is available where and when users need it (this is one of the reasons we deliver native applications for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Kindle Fire, and Chromebooks that all allow you to download and use your content offline). The need for access at the same time as everyone else is especially true for users with a disability.
At VitalSource, we have a long-standing commitment to mainstreaming accessible content throughout our platform. For more than a decade, we have been committed to three goals for accessible content:
- Ensure that all of our customer-facing applications conform to the applicable standards, wherever possible, and make publicly available the documentation about that conformance. Historically this has meant providing access to our Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT), but lately has meant using the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standard, as well as the upcoming 508 refresh in the United States.
- Help publishers understand the best practices for marking up their content. Ensuring accessibility is a shared responsibility between our platform and the markup publishers have in their content. We have best practices, guidebooks and are actively involved in working with advocacy groups, standards committees and working groups.
- Partner with independent third-party testers to validate our claims. We understand having an external review provides confidence and trust in what we are claiming. We have our platforms tested annually and the results made available for our customers. We also upload tests to sites like epubtest.org to provide public accountability and proudly show off our 100% compliance with the fundamental accessibility tests!
This commitment, even as effective as it has been, can never solve every access issue for every user, in every situation, on every device, in every learning environment. However, that does not mean that we should not try!
In upcoming posts I’ll elaborate on where VitalSource is with these challenges in more detail. We have a long history of making accessibility “job one” and many happy users and partners who are leveraging that work every day. Our involvement in delivering, and helping to create the standards behind these solutions is something that we are very proud of, and yet it compels us to improve things as well. Together with our partners, we are excited about what where we can go in the future!
Read the second post in the series - Accessibility & VitalSource - Part II