Brookes Publishing: ASQ Online VPAT Assessment

SmartLogic conducted a formal accessibility assessment for Brookes Publishing to support sales opportunities and future product improvements for ASQ Online.

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Brookes Publishing is a company that focuses on early childhood assessment, disabilities, and education. Brookes first started working with SmartLogic in 2011, when we took over development of their Ages and Stages Questionnaire application, ASQ Online.

In the initial effort, SmartLogic migrated the ASQ Online application to a newer, more stable deployment architecture on client-owned hardware in a private cloud for maximum control in support of medical privacy rules including HIPAA. Over the years, we've continued to evolve the platform, including the addition of new language translations such as Arabic and Vietnamese, while also maintaining the systems infrastructure with operating system updates and a move to Rackspace. To date, the application has been used to collect almost 3.5 million questionnaire responses.

Recently, Brookes received a request from a potential customer, a public university who is required to provide accessibility accommodations for all the websites they build as well as any vendor sites they use. In order to meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and Section 508 compliance requirements of their client, Brookes needed an accessibility audit for ASQ Online, following the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT). Brookes reached out to SmartLogic to conduct this accessibility conformance assessment and assemble the findings in a report based on our expertise on accessibility and usability.

We really appreciated SmartLogic's expertise on 508 compliance; they did a good job of explaining the process and steps necessary, and now we're able to look forward and see where we can make improvements with regards to compliance.
— Monica Belle, Implementation Manager at Brookes Publishing

SmartLogic's Product Designer, Craig Mertan, handled the VPAT assessment and report, as our team's expert on user interfaces and accessibility. His first big challenge was that the VPAT is actually not a test suite, but rather a technology-agnostic set of accessibility and usability guidelines designed to apply both to current and future technologies and implementations. Additionally, some of the included criteria are open to interpretation, such as the requirement that "content must have a logical order," which could have multiple possible solutions and requires subjective human judgment. As such, it was necessary for Craig to design both a testing methodology as well as a format for the final VPAT report.

We've shared the VPAT report with one existing and two potential customers so far; having the VPAT will definitely help us close the sale.
— Monica Belle, Implementation Manager at Brookes Publishing

Craig's methodology began with tracking and managing the manual testing process and results using a custom-designed spreadsheet. The assessment matrix correlated testing criteria against relevant application pages. For the testing process, he used Google Chrome on Mac OS X, with ChromeVox as a screen reader, as well as Chrome's inspect function, an HTML markup validation service, and the OS X voiceover utility.

Craig then condensed the results from the master spreadsheet and compiled them into a short, readable, four-page PDF, required for WCAG 2.1 and Section 508 compliance. The document helps potential clients understand what accessibility accommodations currently exist in ASQ Online, and also gives the Brookes team a clearer sense of where they can make quick wins and accessibility improvements in the future.

Brookes Implementation Manager Monica Belle says she would definitely recommend SmartLogic as a vendor "because of their high level of expertise, excellent communication and project management." She added, "They work with you to help you get a sense of what your priorities should be as far as development; this project in particular required a very short turnaround, and SmartLogic was able to work well within our budget and was able to meet or exceed our timeline."

> Read more about Brookes' initial partnership with SmartLogic