What Is A VPAT And Why Does It Matter In Business?

What Is A VPAT And Why Does It Matter In Business?

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What Is A VPAT?

A VPAT, or "voluntary product accessibility template," is a web-based prototype document that assists vendors of electronic and information technology (EIT) products and services in documenting how their products and services comply with established accessibility requirements, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), Revised Section 508 standards, and the European Union's EN 301 549 accessibility standards.

Editions Of The VPAT

The Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), which created the voluntary product accessibility template (VPAT) in collaboration with the General Services Administration (GSA), developed four different editions of the VPAT in response to feedback: VPAT WCAG 2.0/2.1, VPAT Section 508, VPAT EU, and VPAT International (INT). This was done to allow producers and suppliers of information and communication technology (ICT) products and services to create accessibility conformance reports (ACRs) based on market and contract requirements.

The VPAT WCAG 2.0/2.1 edition contains criteria and technical specifications for the accessibility of websites and web-based tools. The VPAT Section 508 edition anchors the Revised Section 508 Standards, which is the U.S. federal accessibility standard.

The VPAT EU (EN 301 549) anchors the European Union’s accessibility requirements suitable for public procurement of ICT products and services in Europe, while the VPAT INT incorporates all three of the above standards, and is suitable for public procurement of ICT products and services worldwide.

The Information Contained In A VPAT

All four VPAT editions include instructions for using them as well as best practices for manufacturers and sellers of ICT products and services to ensure consistent, uniform, and complete accessibility reporting.

The VPAT editions also include a product description section that allows ICT product and service manufacturers and vendors to describe their products and services succinctly. They also include a section requiring documentation of the methods used to test the accessibility of the products and services, as well as a notes field for the report and each table to allow for the inclusion of additional information about the product or service tested and the evaluation methods used.

Why A VPAT Matters?

Aside from assisting with the evaluation of the availability of accessible ICT products and services, a VPAT can also help in the following ways:

1.       Helping Businesses Achieve ADA Compliance

The ADA, or Americans with Disabilities Act, is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination and ensures that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in mainstream American life, including the ability to easily purchase goods and services. 

Failure to comply with the ADA can result in lawsuits and significant penalties for a business. The VPAT provides a framework to assist ICT product and service providers in conducting educated ADA and Section 508 compliance testing, allowing businesses to detect potential accessibility flaws in their products or services and rectify them to avoid the implications of ADA non-compliance.

2.       Helping To Save The Time Spent By Sales Teams In Responding To Inquiries

A VPAT provides customers with the information they require to select the products and services that best meet their accessibility needs. Customers can then assess whether the product or service fulfills their accessibility requirements, saving businesses the time they could have spent replying to customer enquiries about their products and services. As a result, the business's staff can use their time to completing other tasks for the business rather than replying to requests for which the VPAT offers responses.

3.       Building Internal Business Teams

VPATs assist in identifying components of a company's products and services that need to be modified in order to be accessible. This enables the company's internal teams to do everything possible to address any accessibility faults discovered during VPAT evaluations, resulting in high-quality products and services. This typically involves training of the company's employees on accessibility concerns, which boosts employee enthusiasm and adds to better business performance.

A Section 508 compliance test, for example, assists a company's staff in understanding what features are required to make their ICT products and services procurable by federal agencies, allowing them to better align and increase the likelihood of their products being purchased by federal organizations.

Need Help Filling Out Your VPAT Or With Section 508 Compliance Testing?

If you want your ICT product or service to benefit from having aVPAT or want a Section 508-compliant website,you can get help by calling (626) 486-2201. To check if your website conforms to the ADA compliance/508 requirements, use this Section 508 compliance checker.

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