Why a less than perfect VPAT is okay


Presented at 3:30pm in Meadowbrook I/II on Wednesday, November 14, 2018.



  • Elizabeth Simister, Blackboard Inc.

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 1-hr
  • Format: Lecture
  • Expertise Level: Beginner
  • Type of session: General Conference


Helping organizations understand how to evaluate the content in a vendor's Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) or Accessibility Conformance Report.


The original purpose of a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template or VPAT was to provide United States Federal agencies a tool to determine how compliant a software application, web application, or piece of hardware was to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as a requirement of the Federal Acquisition Regulation procurement process (FAR 39.2).

However, now more institutions and organizations outside of the Federal government have used this document to assist their purchasing departments in choosing their software application, web application, and hardware.

This presentation will help organizations understand what makes a good VPAT, the questions they must ask the vendor, and what red flags they need to be aware of.


  1. Understanding the new VPAT 2.1 format
  2. Understanding the conformance levels
  3. Understanding what went into authoring the VPAT

Disability Areas

All Areas

Topic Areas

Administrative/Campus Policy, Legal, Uncategorized

Speaker Bio(s)

Elizabeth Simister

My name is Elizabeth Simister and I am the current product accessibility manager at Blackboard. I got my start in accessibility in 2004 in what is now the K. Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Institute on Employment and Disability Institute at Cornell University. One of my biggest responsibilities was understanding how to take scanned journal pages with lots of charts, graphs, tables, and math formulas and make them in accessible PDFs. After Cornell, I spent a number of years working as a contractor helping different organizations figure out what they needed to do to be accessible. My primary focus at Blackboard is on working with our development teams to get them to the point where all of our products are as accessible as possible.