What is a VPAT?
The Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) is a prototype document that vendors and manufacturers of information and communication technology (ICT) products and services can use to self-generate statements that describe how their ICT products or services adhere to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), the European Union's EN 301 459 accessibility standards, or Section 508 accessibility standards for ICT.
The VPAT document gives businesses a common framework for conducting in-depth audits of how well their ICT products and services adhere to the established accessibility standards for making them usable by people with disabilities.
How the VPAT came about
The VPAT was created in response to Congress' revision of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act, which mandates that federal agencies make their EIT accessible to individuals with disabilities, whether or not they are employed by the federal government.
The VPAT was created by the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) in consultation with the General Services Administration (GSA). Therefore, as part of the procurement process, all federal agencies require suppliers of ICT products and services to provide proof of the accessibility of their products and services.
The VPAT becomes an Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR) once it is filled out or completed. Contracting officers and procurement teams usually evaluate an ICT product's or service's support for accessibility using the product's or service's ACR. VPATs help suppliers keep track of how effectively their products and services adhere to the applicable accessibility standards or norms.
The ACR serves as a visual depiction of how a certain ICT product or service complies with all applicable accessibility standards and guidelines. The VPAT accessibility stamp is made up of the creation of an ACR for an ICT product or service and the publication of the document online.
VPAT accessibility refers to the use of a VPAT to identify and remove obstacles that impede individuals with disabilities from interacting with and using ICT products and services. Understanding the market to which you want to offer your ICT products and services for public procurement is usually the first step in the VPAT accessibility journey.
When you know which market you want to sell your ICT products and services to, it is easier to choose the right VPAT version to use throughout the VPAT certification processes. For instance, you would base your VPAT scoring on the VPAT 508 version if you wanted to convince federal authorities to buy your ICT products or services.
Why embrace VPAT accessibility?
Every company that sells ICT products and services needs to embrace VPAT accessibility, which is now an accepted corporate standard on a global scale because of the following factors:
- It enables businesses to work with federal organizations.
- It helps businesses identify the accessibility challenges associated with their products and services, which fosters the constant perfection of the products or services.
- It helps businesses plan for custom-made accessibility services.
- It helps businesses increase their consumer base by catering to the disability market.
- Businesses that pay keen attention to the VPAT accessibility of their websites benefit significantly from enhanced SEO ratings, which translates to increased revenue and profits.
- It leads to increased business conversions due to enhanced brand visibility.
VPAT accessibility, according to ADACP, assists businesses in making their ICT products and services compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Who needs a VPAT?
If you have companies that offer ICT products and services, such as EdTech and HealthTech companies, retail and online shops, SaaS product and software suppliers, etc., you need to complete a VPAT for each of your products or services.
If your ICT company is based in the US, do not avoid creating VPAT reports for your products or services because Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act appears to only directly apply to federal entities. Keep in mind that any private entities desiring to conduct business with the federal government or receive federal funds must also provide proof of Section 508 compliance through a VPAT.
Therefore, all companies and organizations that are directly or indirectly subject to Revised Section 508 of the United States Rehabilitation Act need to complete or update VPAT ACRs for their products or services.
This means that all U.S. federal agencies, any government agency such as a state, county, or municipal jurisdiction that receives financial aid from the U.S. federal government, charities, educational institutions, healthcare providers, and federal contractors and suppliers are businesses and organizations that require a VPAT.
In addition to the updated Section 508 accessibility standards, numerous states, local governments, and businesses have adopted the WCAG in place of the federally enforced Section 508 standards. The possession of current VPAT ACRs that demonstrate how their products and services conform with Section 508, WCAG, or the EU's EN 301 549 is also becoming more and more of a requirement for large firms and organizations.
All companies and organizations looking to work with any government organization in the United States, as well as many other governments across the world, should anticipate the need for an updated VPAT report for their digital offerings.
It helps to get professional assistance in creating your VPAT
The entire VPAT accessibility procedure is replete with accessibility technicalities, and navigating the terrain successfully calls for an expert with domain understanding of the technicalities. Getting assistance from accessibility experts is advised because you don't want to create an incorrect or incomplete VPAT that could subject you to legal difficulties.
By studying a VPAT 2022 example created by accessibility experts, you can learn how to design your own VPAT. Alternatively, you can contact ADACP at (626) 486-220 to arrange for a VPAT consultation to assist you with your VPAT accessibility processes.