Case Study: VitalSource
VitalSource has been consistently dedicated to providing accessible solutions for its users. As its product offerings grew and development requirements became more complex, the company found that it needed an accessibility solutions provider that could service its diverse product offerings and scale up when required to meet the cyclical nature of its business needs.
TPGi was able to deliver against a complex set of requirements by providing a level of agile support at every stage of the development process that surpassed all expectations and enabled VitalSource to scale its operations without sacrificing time or quality.
VitalSource is the leading education technology solutions provider committed to helping partners create, deliver, and distribute affordable, accessible, and impactful learning experiences worldwide. As a recognized innovator in the digital course materials market, VitalSource is best known for partnering with more than 1,000 publishers and resellers to deliver extraordinary learning experiences to millions of active users globally– and today we’re also powering new, cutting-edge technologies designed to optimize teaching and learning for maximum results.
VitalSource was expanding its product portfolio and needed to uphold its commitment to accessible solutions. Its previous accessibility vendor was unable to provide the flexibility or technology to integrate seamlessly into its DevOps or the scale and efficiency required to achieve the high volumes of deliverables needed.
Initial ideas to solve this challenge included engaging multiple accessibility solution providers to handle specific business segments. However, VitalSource ultimately decided against this strategy, given that differences in methodologies, technologies, communications, and general administration would be burdened too extensively to justify it.
Partner Selection Process
It was critical to VitalSource that stakeholder groups with a vested interest in providing accessible solutions could participate in the vendor selection process. Its selection committee included an executive sponsor, representatives from product management, design, engineering, and individuals regarded as accessibility champions.
In evaluating accessibility solutions providers, VitalSource needed to move beyond a client/vendor relationship and find a strong accessibility partner that could integrate into its agile framework. The organization believes in incorporating accessibility feedback at every stage of its development process, including evaluating prospective designs, providing technical direction to its engineering teams, reviewing features in pieces before release, as well as completing regular VPAT testing.
Additional vendor selection criteria included reputation in the accessibility community, deep technical expertise in utilizing advanced and emerging testing techniques, and a solid technical foundation that could scale up and down based on its testing needs.
After an extensive evaluation and interview process, VitalSource awarded a trial project to TPGi. During this trial, TPGi demonstrated integration techniques and scalability capabilities the business required, which ultimately exceeded the demands of the trial project.
VitalSource engaged with TPGi for several initiatives, from smaller new feature testing to more extensive platform redesigns. For the redesigns, TPGi and VitalSource relied on agile methodology that would:
- Embed accessibility in the earliest stages of the DevOps process
- Foster a culture of accessibility within the DevOps team
- Create a system of measurement and accountability for accessibility initiatives
- Scale as needed to accommodate VitalSource’s needs
The new approach embedded accessibility processes and expertise into the earliest stages of the agile development lifecycle, starting with planning and design reviews. As concepts moved toward design, TPGi delivered design review services (guidance, considerations, and strategy for the user experience) that would identify and address any potential risk areas before any coding started.
Guidance during the development planning stage
After approved designs move into development planning stages, coding techniques, architecture, component build plans, and underlying technologies play a critical role in creating accessible functionality.
TPGi provided guidance and pre-vetting for these elements during the development planning stage, helping to remove inaccessible techniques from the conversation and offered the development teams alternative methods. Such oversight allowed VitalSource to significantly reduce the need for remediation down the road.
Iterative product development
In the development stage, teams create, share, and review prototypes for accessibility. TPGi engineers followed an agile methodology to inspect the outputs, provide specific code-level violations, and recommend remediation techniques. As VitalSource corrected violations, TPGi retested and verified that the violations had been resolved correctly, allowing the build to continue in a fast and iterative manner.
With agile development, the total volume of issues has already been significantly reduced by the time components and other outputs complete development and move to QA. During this stage, TPGi identified further violations and provided additional remediation instructions. When the products were ready for public consumption, TPGi issued a VPAT to document VitalSource’s accessibility successes.
In the two years that VitalSource has been working with TPGi, it has achieved a level of integration with its design and engineering workflows that have surpassed expectations. VitalSource also achieved several objectives:
- The team resolved accessibility errors earlier on in the cycle, minimizing or eradicating the need to conduct expensive retroactive remediation on “finished” products. TPGi’s support saved countless hours and resources that would have been required to fix errors in the post-development stage.
- VitalSource architected an accessibility testing workflow that would allow engineers to test each feature across five platforms during the development cycle. TPGi enabled VitalSource to stack multiple evaluations instead of having to do them sequentially, enabling accessibility testing at a magnitude previously thought to be too costly or time-prohibitive to tackle.
- The VitalSource team has become more familiar with accessibility techniques over time, reducing the incidence of accessibility errors requiring future remediation. This has allowed the team to scale up the volume of accessible code deployments.
- Accessibility has become an integral part of the DevOps culture. Delivering inaccessible digital content is unacceptable, ensuring the business provides an accessible experience while reducing the risk of legal action.
VitalSource has been able to substantially reduce the time required to manage the accessibility workflow and decrease development delays while improving accessibility for its users. The team is now confident that it can scale where and when it needs to without sacrificing objectives, milestones, or requiring extensive oversight and management.
VitalSource expanded the relationship with TPGi to support all of its digital accessibility needs. The team was thrilled to have found a long-term partner in TPGi that could work across different business units without adding the burden of communicating with multiple vendors to ensure a comprehensive and cohesive strategy across its business.
In the two years that VitalSource has been working with TPGi, it has achieved a level of integration with its design and engineering workflows that have surpassed expectations