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Evaluating Product Accessibility (VPATs)

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For any business that works with the U.S. federal government, product and service accessibility is no longer a recommendation, it’s a requirement.

Group of people using laptops and phones

We’re also increasingly witnessing this demand play out in the private marketplace in 2021. Both procurement teams and individuals purchasers are demanding a VPAT® prior to purchase and use.

Many clients partner with us for VPAT and ACR services.

Schedule a demo or contact us to learn more about how we can help your organization.

What is a VPAT?

The acronym VPAT stands for Voluntary Product Accessibility Template. A VPAT is a document that can be filled out to provide an overview of the accessibility of products and services such as software, hardware, and other digital offerings.

Technically, once a VPAT is completed, it becomes an Accessibility Conformance Report or ACR but most in the marketplace still refer to both the template and completed template as a VPAT. We’ll carry forward with the term VPAT in this article.

A VPAT can help demonstrate legal compliance with the revised Section 508 Standards (or internationally the EN 301 549) for accessibility.

A properly completed VPAT should include key information including the following:

  • Report title
  • VPAT version
  • Name and version of the product
  • Product description
  • Date of publication
  • Contact information
  • Evaluation methods used
  • Applicable standards: WCAG 2.0, WCAG 2.1, Revised Section 508, EN 301 549

The material accessibility portion consists of a table that includes three columns: 1) Criteria, 2) Conformance Level, and 3) Remarks and Explanations.

The first column, criteria, will contain the applicable standard or WCAG success criterion.

The second column, conformance level will be filled out to indicate whether the product or service:

  • Supports. This means that you either meet all the specific factors dictated by the standards in a very literal way, or you accomplish the same goals by way of “an equivalent facilitation.”
  • Partially Supports. As the term suggests, this means that your product or service meets the standard in some way, but there may still be certain “known defects” that are present.
  • Does Not Support. This describes a situation where the majority of your product’s functionality does not meet the standard.
  • Not Applicable: The criterion is not relevant.

The third column will elaborate on the conformance level column with details. For example, a partial support value calls for details on what is and is not supported.

Best Practices for Filling Out a VPAT

Three best practices for filling out a VPAT are:

  1. Diligently evaluate your product’s accessibility
  2. Provide sufficient detail
  3. Be honest

A VPAT can only be created after a careful and thorough analysis, which means that you’re going to get full visibility into your product. Naturally, your team’s instinct may be to minimize and downplay any issues you find in terms of product accessibility.

Because it’s so important to have an objective team with technical expertise in accessibility fill out your VPAT, it’s highly recommended you contract with an independent, third-party accessibility company when creating a VPAT.

In fact, many procurement teams will ask who created your VPAT.

If your VPAT was created internally, it may not meet requirements by federal or private procurement agents.

Where Can I Find a VPAT Template?

VPAT templates, just like software, get version upgrades. It’s important to know what the most updated VPAT version is and for you to use it. You can get the latest version, which happens to be VPAT Version 2.3, from the Information Technology Industry (ITI) Council website.

These VPAT default templates give you more than enough room to add remarks to each item. If a particular product accessibility problem is identified, use this space to go into detail about the steps that you’re taking to fix it and when you can expect to finally meet that status.

Finally, you’ll want to make sure that you’re being as thorough as necessary. Don’t forget that part of the purpose of a VPAT is to confirm to potential buyers that yours is a product that is a good fit for their organization.

If your product is not fully accessible, your product roadmap should show the timeline of how long it will be to make any necessary changes to make your product compliant.

If you’d like to get even more information about how to effectively evaluate product accessibility for your own business, or if you’re just eager to learn more about the wide array of different benefits that a VPAT can bring to the table, watch our 30-minute on-demand webinar on VPATs today.

You can also schedule a demo or contact us to learn more.

VPAT webinar poster: Who, What & Where: The Facts About VPATs with Kara Zirkle (Training and Compliance Manager) and Eric Feinberg (Chief Growth Officer)

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