What Is VPAT, And Why Do You Need It?
A Voluntary Product Accessibility Template ( VPAT) is a special document that details and explains how information and communication technology products like software, hardware, electronic content conform to the Revised 508 standards set aside for IT accessibility.
As a business dealing with IT products, your buyers will use the VPAT to determine how accessible your products are and whether they contain any deficiencies.
Your customers will make informed choices before purchasing your products because they will understand that products meet the accessibility standards and legal requirements making your company functional and compliant with the set requirements and standards.
The availability of VPAT in your organization shows your consumers that you care about the accessibility of your products. This will attract business due to your open nature of explaining your compliance to accessibility through this document.
The ability to provide your customers with compliance details saves time and influences their purchasing choices positively.
What is VPAT document?
A VPAT document allows your organization to provide a complete analysis of your conformity to the accessibility standards that have been set by section 508. The vendor typically produces the VPAT detailing each aspect of the requirements and how the particular product supports each criterion in the document.
VPAT accessibility outlines the digital accessibility functions of a company’s digital properties and products while showing and informing the public that the organization has taken all the necessary steps to ensure that its products are fully accessible to everyone without discrimination.
These compliance documents are available on the vendors’ websites, procurement departments and are usually distributed by the organizational procurement officers.
What Was The Reason For The VPAT Creation?
A VPAT was created to provide accessibility and social inclusion for special groups of people like those living with disabilities in developing countries, aged, and living in rural areas.
The VPAT was created to provide a means for organizations and companies to display their accessibility compliances and conformity to standards that have been placed in place by Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC).
The introduction of this compliance requirement has helped government agencies evaluate the conformity of the company’s products and services while enabling organizations to self-report their competence and compliance levels in their services.
While the government agencies have been able to evaluate and analyze the conformity commitment of companies, the transparency of the organizations with the VPAT has positively impacted and contributed to their goals and missions.
The availability of VPAT has empowered consumers in making informed purchase decisions by accessing the compliance and functional details of products and services before buying them.
What Accessibility Standards Are Currently Covered In The VPAT?
There are four accessibility standards covered in the VPAT. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that all ICT products and services provide equal access to the public members with disabilities without discrimination.
WCAG 2.0 is a voluntary consensus universal standard for the web content accessibility guidelines, while WCAG 2.1 is an updated version of WCAG 2.0 whose policies ensure that the web content is perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.
These guidelines represent responsive variations of web pages like low visions, motor impairments, and the use of mobile phones.
The final standard is EN 301 549 that represents the digital accessibility standard used in the European Union and includes the WCAG 2.1 standards.
Section 508 is part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that was amended in 1998. This amendment requires that every U.S federal government agency develop, procure, maintain and use any ICT technology that offers equal access to every person, especially the people with special needs or disabilities.
Section 508 VPAT template sets standards that every federal government department should follow and any organization that receives federal contracts or funding when creating any digital products and services.
Equal access to goods, services, education, social and recreational opportunities should be accessible to all citizens with no discrimination against people living with disabilities.
Web content accessibility guidelines are stable, reference-able standards that do not change. These recommendations make web content more accessible, primarily for people with disabilities and for highly limited devices like mobile phones.
Accessibility involves a wide range of disabilities ranging from visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning, and neurological disabilities.
These special recommendations cover a wide range of issues while also making web content more usable to the older generation and improve general usability for users.
WCAG 2.0 was published as a final W3C recommendation web standard on 11th December 2008. Four main principles were stating that websites should be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. WCAG 2.1 became a W3C recommendation in June 2018, whose main goal was to improve accessibility guidance for three major groups; users with cognitive or learning disabilities, users with low vision, and users with disabilities on mobile devices.
EN 301 549
EN 301 549 is a European standard for digital accessibility that specifies requirements for information and communications technology accessible for people living with disabilities.
These standards were developed to set requirements for public procurement of products and services in the European Union. There have been subsequent releases and versions between 2005 and 2011.
These specific standards include web and mobile applications and have also addressed a wide range of other technologies covered by WCAG guidelines like products.
The EN 301 549 standards have provided human-centred computing and accessibility to people with special needs.
How to get a VPAT?
An organization or company can get a VPAT template from the Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC) and customize it to an organization’s internal accessibility team.
Any vendor can download this template from the ITIC website. However, it is highly recommended to hire an external audit team and outsource creating the VPAT to ensure that the document is accurate, high quality, and unbiased.
A VPAT is a legal document, and it should be valid as per the set requirements by the government agencies.
It is recommended that the company VPAT document you create should be available in accessible formats like PDF, Word, HTML, etc., for easy access to all your consumers. Some organizations publish their VPATs on their websites, while others provide the VPAT on request by their buyers to their sales and support departments.
There are four types of VPAT are available, and they include:-
- VPAT 2.4 508 – This includes revised section 508 standards which are Federal accessibility standards.
- VPAT 2.4 EU – This includes EN 301 549, EU accessibility requirements suitable for public procurement of ICT products and services in EUROPE.
- VPAT 2.4 WCAG2.1 – has recently updated web content accessibility guidelines.
- VPAT 2.4 INT – incorporating all three standards.
Why do you need to complete a VPAT?
Every company dealing with any digital products should complete a VPAT because it allows it to provide documentation and explanation about their products’ level of compliance to the set requirements by the Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC) or government agencies.
One of the primary purposes of a VPAT is to help buyers of any ICT products and services make informed decisions before purchasing, which helps in boosting sales and the company’s revenue.
A VPAT will help a company recognize and realize the accessibility gaps and challenges of an ICT product and improve it. The VPAT will help the company improve its products and services, meet the set standards, and fulfil its buyers’ needs without bias.
The availability of a VPAT will provide an avenue for buyers to compare similar products and services and make informed choices based on the outlined standards and details in the document.
A VPAT becomes a product performance report that reflects the company’s accessibility standards and compliance status, which reflects positively in the eyes of their buyers.
A well-filled VPAT informs the buyer of the companies’ knowledge of the product’s accessibility challenges and its commitment to improving it and making it equally accessible to all buyers.
What is a VPAT statement?
A VPAT statement explains how ICT products and services support and conform to the set IT accessibility standards.
What does a VPAT do?
VPAT helps buyers of ICT make informed decisions before making a product purchase. A VPAT document helps a consumer understand the product’s level of accessibility compliance and offers an avenue of comparison of similar products.
What is a section 508 VPAT?
Section 508 is the set standards and part of the Rehabilitation Act that requires every ICT technology to have equal access to every person without bias to a disability, age, or location.
Is VPAT a legal document?
Yes, VPAT is a self-assessment document that discloses how accessible ICT products are according to the global standards created by the Information technology Industry Council (ITI)
How long does it take to complete a VPAT?
The process of completing a VPAT depends on the individual digital products and will differ from company to company. Ensure that you follow the outlined steps and maintain the integrity by addressing your organization’s products and the law’s requirements.
How do I read a VPAT file?
A VPAT should include several important areas to read through, like the summary, applicable standards, conformance reports, and contact information.
Organizations might be hesitant in creating VPAT compliance for fear of exposing their products and services negatively to their buyers. Still, they need to understand that a VPAT is about the conformance and compliance of a product on the set standards by the government agencies.
Every company should look at a VPAT as an overview of challenges, success, and tracking of product efficiency to its buyers.
A VPAT is an essential aid in assessing the ICT products and services capabilities in meeting the needs and accessibility features, especially to people with disabilities and other special needs.
A VPAT is crucial in offering inclusivity to all special groups of individuals without biases and discrimination. A VPAT document allows your company to provide a comprehensive analysis of your compliance to accessibility standards set by the Rehabilitation Act under Section 508, which creates trust and credibility in the eyes of your customers and buyers.