The Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT)is a self-evaluation measure that organizations use to confirm the accessibility standards of their products and offerings.
Digital accessibility isn’t merely a buzzword created by web developers. The increasing number of lawsuits depicts the importance of ensuring barrier free access to products and technology. All sizes of businesses have started getting VPAT reports and if you are thinking similarly, then this post is going to be of great help.
Let’s discuss, what exactly is VPAT, why it is so important and how to get one for your product.
What is VPAT?
VPAT is a free to use template used to generate an Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR). Having an ACR is considered crucial for organizations that deal with federal agencies. According to law, VPAT analysis is mandatory for federal government procurements. In simple words, brands are required to adhere to the digital accessibility laws mentioned in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act to be a preferred vendor for federal level procurements.
Apart from federal level procurement, VPAT has become a crucial component for brands dealing in the private sector. Organizations prefer vendors that have a VPAT report because it ensures that they are compliant with digital accessibility laws. In addition to the accessibility guidelines of Section 508, VPAT ACR can also be used to test your products and declare compliance with ADA (Americans with Disability Act).
What Are The Benefits Of Creating VPAT?
Protection Against Lawsuits
Lawsuits for ADA violations are increasing day by day. Even some global brands are sued for the absence of digital accessibility. If you want to protect your business from serial litigants or the risk of ADA violation, you can create a VPAT.
VPAT provides you with a framework to test your products on the basis of several accessibility guidelines. The VPAT report enables you to confirm adherence to Section 508, ADA and accessibility guidelines of the European Union. To put it simply, products and offerings compliant with so many frameworks ensure widened reach, improved customerexperience and increased sales. You can become a preferred vendor not just for federal procurement but for all other businesses that are concerned about legal compliance on the digital front.
VPAT reporting is a series of rigorous tests and analyses to achieve barrier free access. While you are putting in efforts to make your website ADA compliant, you are automatically attaining the benefits of search engine optimization.
Google loves websites with digital accessibility assurance. An ADA compliant website ranks higher without spending lots of resources on SEO and marketing campaigns.
Who Needs A VPAT?
VPAT was first introduced to ensure digital accessibility compliance for federal level procurements. According to Section 508, the VPAT report is a must for businesses that sell, manage or procure Information and Communication Technology products.
In other words, if your brand is dealing in software, hardware, operating systems, mobile apps, and electronic documentation, VPAT becomes essential.
On the other hand, the ADA version of VPAT also applies to business websites that are considered a place of public accommodation. Hence, it can be said that regardless of the product you are selling, having a VPAT document makes the most sense if you have a business website.
How To Request An Accessibility Conformance Report (Vs. VPAT)?
The VPAT template is free to download. Anyone can download the template from the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) website. However, filling out the VPAT can be a complicated task as it requires an in-depth understanding of the digital accessibility domain.
If your in-house team lacks domain specific knowledge then it’s best to leave it to the experts. Here is a stepwise approach that you can follow to generate a VPAT:
- There are four different versions of VPAT, i.e. Section 508, ADA, European Union standards and all of these guidelines in one single VPAT. You need to identify which version of VPAT suits the most to your products and offerings.
- Before filling out the VPAT, a thorough audit of the products and offerings is essential. Software scans are quick and easy, however the accessibility barriers detected with such tools are only 30% accurate. You can go with manual audits or attain the combined approach of automated plus manual audits to find out the accessibility barriers.
- Focus on the test results and the remediations suggested by the auditors to improve the accessibility standards.
- Fill out the VPAT correctly and generate the ACR.
- Update the VPAT reports every 12-14 months or after any major update in the offerings.
The VPAT report has a detailed description of the methods of evaluation and applicable accessibility standards. Each row of the VPAT document has a remarks column that needs to be filled out correctly. Not sure how to do that? Leave it to the experts.
Get in touch with the accessibility specialists at ADA Compliance Pros to fill out a correct VPAT. These audit specialists can thoroughly test your product and guide you in generating the VPAT ACR.