Accessibility and business growth
The ability of people with disabilities to access, navigate, or participate successfully in business processes is severely impacted by barriers that make these individuals' quality of life difficult or impossible. These barriers also hinder the expansion of businesses by excluding products and services from the sizable market that comprises people with disabilities.
Given the catalytic role of information and communication technology (ICT) in various sectors, including enhancement of worker productivity, improved performance, and better customer experience, the amendment of Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act helped to bring accessibility from the periphery to the center of business processes.
Section 508 and accessibility
As a result of the amended Section 508, businesses and organizations are now required by law to make their digital offerings accessible for people with disabilities.
Specifically, the legislation requires all federal agencies to acquire, develop, use, and maintain ICT that is accessible to individuals with disabilities, whether or not those individuals are employed by the federal government.
This is incredible considering that 20% of Americans have a disability of some type. Additionally, the U.S. population's average age is rising quickly, which implies that in the next few decades, it is likely that the proportion of Americans who have disabilities will rise even further.
It is now not only a legal duty but also extremely profitable for businesses to make sure that their products and services are accessible to people with disabilities.
The VPAT and Section 508 accessibility
To help businesses document the accessibility of ICT products and services so as to assist federal government contracting officials and procurement teams comply with Section 508, especially when researching for accessible products and services, the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) worked in partnership with the General Services Administration (GSA) to develop the voluntary product accessibility template (VPAT).
A VPAT is a prototype form that manufacturers or vendors of ICT products and services use to self-generate statements that provide information on how their ICT products or services conform to the Section 508 accessibility standards for ICT, the European Union’s EN 301 459 accessibility standards for publicly procurable ICT, or the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), in a consistent fashion and format.
Manufacturers and vendors of ICT products and services have to generate an accessibility conformance report (ACR) using the prototype VPAT form whenever they develop products or services that are determined to be ICT and are publicly procurable.
Manufacturers or suppliers of ICT goods and services are required to describe in detail in each VPAT ACR how their products and services comply with the accessibility requirements specified in the pertinent accessibility standards or guidelines.
Why a VPAT is useful for a business
Without a VPAT, businesses wouldn't have been able to create accessible conformance reports in a uniform manner or format. This may have meant that each business documented the accessibility of its ICT products or services however they saw fit, making it challenging or even impossible for contracting officers and procurement teams to choose the products or services with the most accessible features.
Without a VPAT, each business would have also interpreted the accessibility criteria in a way that best fit its objectives, providing no clear framework to assist in effective ICT product and service accessibility assessments. This implies that there would have been numerous problems relating to the validity of the accessibility assessments and the ensuing accessibility reports.
Without a VPAT, buyers could also have found it difficult to choose the products or services with the most accessible features. This is due to how challenging it would have been to compare the essential components when analyzing accessibility reports created with different frameworks.
Therefore, a VPAT helps businesses to document the accessibility of their products or services in an orderly and guided way. The template serves as a key tool in VPAT certification, without which a business’ products and services cannot participate in public procurements in various markets, including with federal organizations and public entities in Europe and globally.
In a nutshell, the VPAT and VPAT certification help a business in the following ways:
- helps the business work with federal organizations.
- helps the business identify critical accessibility issues in its products and services, which helps in the continuous improvement of the products or services.
- ensures that the business plans for customized accessibility services.
- helps the business increase its consumer base.
- enables a business to enhance its SEO ratings, especially with website VPAT certification.
- Increased business conversions due to enhanced brand visibility
Get a professional to provide you with VPAT certification services.
While you can use your internal teams to fill out your VPATs, many buyers find a VPAT report generated by a third-party accessibility professional more legit.
This means that while the choice about who helps you create your VPAT ACR is all up to you, many buyers will trust a VPAT report arising from a V audit conducted by an expert with domain knowledge about accessibility.
To generate your VPAT report, you may review a VPAT example developed by accessibility professionals or call (626) 486-220 to get a VPAT consult on the books to help you with your VPAT certification.