What exactly is a VPAT?

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is an important law that ensures federal agencies can make their information and communications technologies accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities. This includes software, hardware, and multimedia content.

When procuring or purchasing technology, federal agencies must consider the Section 508 law which requires that the technology be accessible to all individuals—including those with disabilities. The law encompasses a broad scope of government technology ranging from software and hardware to electronic content and websites. Technology vendors usually provide an outlining tool called Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) which outlines how their product meets the specific accessibility standards mentioned in Section 508. The vendors produce an Accessibility Compliance Report (ACR) based on this template as proof of compliance.

To conduct market research on products to be procured, the VPAT was developed by the Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC) and the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) in 2001. The maiden idea was to cater to federal government contracts directly or indirectly but it is now an accepted practice among both private and public sector organizations.

It is equally important to annually update your VPAT to verify that your product/service still meets the Section 508 requirements and is not marked as obsolete. In a VPAT document, reports can be based on a variety of guidelines and accessibility standards such as WCAG 2.1, Section 508 as well as EN 301 549 (European Accessibility Standards). The latest version used for creating reports is VPAT 2.4.

A VPAT’s Purpose

The VPAT was designed to convey accessibility information about technology products to federal government employees or organizations receiving federal funding in making informed decisions.

Simply put, the checklist is a voluntary guide that vendors use to self-report their products and avert lawsuits. It also helps the buyers to learn better about the ICT (Information and Communication Technology) product of their interest and how closely it meets the accessibility requirements.

Products that comply with Section 508 accessibility standards are deemed fit for use by federal agencies and federally funded organizations. By meeting these criteria, vendors ensure that their products can be purchased and used by these agencies. A periodic update of the VPAT is conducted to keep up with technological advancements. Despite the numerous advantages, VPAT being a self-reporting tool is prone to create room for error in form of inaccuracies if you don’t opt for the experienced few.

Even if a company isn’t related to the federal government, creating a report can still be beneficial for consumers. This is because it helps them determine if a product meets their specific needs. By looking at the report, consumers can identify which sections address their areas of concern.

Can VPAT certification be used to prove compliance?

VPAT is often referred to as a certification of compliance, but it’s not. It’s intended to provide greater insight into how well a piece of content meets specific accessibility standards. In other words, VPAT provides vendors and purchasers with an opportunity to have more purposeful discussions before the procurement process begins. If someone requests VPAT certification, they’re most likely referring to a complete VPAT or ACR. An accurate VPAT reflects your allegiance to accessibility and adds to your brand name.

However, VPAT certification is a legally binding document that also ensures Section 508 compliance when working with a federal agency.

Pivotal Accessibility’s School of Thought

Our accessibility specialists have considerable experience evaluating accessibility and creating VPATs. Delinquency is a strict no-no, hence our process goes beyond simply filling out the VPAT document and submitting it. Also since VPAT is a legal document, it is imperative to trust the expert hands for getting the job done and ascertain maximum precision in your ACR.

Our technical precision and expansive expertise contribute to a structured VPAT generation and updation, while also being able to make rudimentary reforms in the original website structure to ferret out the missing accessibility features. Our articulate approach encircles the following:

  • Identifying accessibility gaps and implementing the best approach to eradicate them.
  • Educating the client to formulate a deeper understanding of the VPAT’s contribution to increased revenue and other advantages associated with listing the accessibility of their products and services.
  • Using multiple assistive technologies on different devices to test critical user flows devised using Critical Path Analysis.
  • Our team will audit any accessibility barriers and work with you to resolve the more complex errors.
  • Unification of manual and automated services to generate a thorough VPAT and a complete ACR.
  • Regularly monitor and reassess your product’s compliance with accessibility standards to ensure continued accessibility as new features are released.

Get in touch with our team to get sophisticated VPAT certification and bespoke accessibility solutions today!