Esri's Commitment to Accessibility
In the technology industry, products and their capabilities are changing and improving daily. Esri understands that, while the improvement of product functionality is significant in enhancing efficiency for users of the respective products, there is an equally significant and corresponding need to ensure the functionality is readily available to all users. Our effort to achieve product accessibility for all begins with diligent research of evolving accessibility capabilities and continues with the development and incorporation of these capabilities into GIS functions across our product line. With each release of ArcGIS, we further empower our customers to enjoy our products and make informed choices about the Esri products that best serve them.
For Our US Customers – Compliance with Section 508, WCAG, and ADA
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C. 794d) requires federal agencies to procure technology products that are the most readily accessible. To assist agencies in making this determination, Esri publishes Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates, or VPATs, for our various products. These VPATs are designed to provide our customers a thorough breakdown of product compliance areas so they may evaluate and select the products that best meet their accessibility needs.
In 2017, the US Access Board published a rule on requirements for information and communication technology covered under Section 508. These requirements include incorporating the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 by reference and applying Level A and Level AA Success Criteria and Conformance Requirements ("WCAG 2.0 A & AA") to websites, as well as to non-web electronic documents and software.
While the United States Department of Justice has affirmed the position that the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) also applies to websites and web-based applications, it has declined to adopt a uniform legal accessibility standard. This lack of clarity has fostered the emergence of WCAG 2.0 A & AA requirements as the de facto standard for state and local government and commercial entity accessibility compliance under Titles II and III of the ADA. Our VPATs are therefore updated at each product release to provide the most accurate and up to date information for all of our US government, state and local government, and commercial customers. As of 2019, we have completed a WCAG 2.0 A & AA gap assessment of our various products and assigned areas of priority for further accessibility improvement.
For Our International Customers – Compliance with WCAG 2.0 and 2.1
A large portion of our International customers reside in jurisdictions where accessibility legislation is derived from WCAG 2.0 A & AA requirements. Because our VPATs incorporate WCAG 2.0 A & AA standards, our international customers are able to view our VPATS, as well, to evaluate compliance based on their respective accessibility requirements.
In other jurisdictions, we recognize a growing trend toward WCAG 2.1 requirements, which set forth seventeen additional Success Criteria and Conformance Requirements. These additional requirements are primarily driven to improve accessibility to people with visual impairments, cognitive and learning disabilities, and overall accessibility of mobile devices. While these requirements have not yet been incorporated into Esri VPAT forms, our Product Management and Development teams are working toward the development of WCAG 2.1 complaint products, and we are excited for the release of these products in the near future.