VPAT Compliance: A Guide for Beginners

Decoding VPAT accessibility

If you’re new to the tech world, you might be curious about what VPAT accessibility, which is now well-established in the industry, is all about. This article seeks to untangle this so that you’re not left behind.

VPAT accessibility is the ecosystem of processes and actions created by using a voluntary product accessibility template (VPAT) to ensure electronic and information technology (EIT) products and services are accessible to everybody, regardless of their ability or disability. It starts with the VPAT.

The VPAT and digital accessibility

Given that the VPAT is the first step in VPAT accessibility, let’s begin this conversation by defining the term “VPAT.”

“VPAT,” which is an acronym for “Voluntary Product Accessibility Template,” is a standard form for use by manufacturers and vendors of electronic and information technology (EIT) products and services in documenting how their products or services provide accessibility support for people with disabilities according to the Section 508 federal guidelines for accessibility, the European Union’s EN 301 549 public procurement standards for Europe, and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

The VPAT template was developed by the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) in collaboration with the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to provide a standard reporting format and make it simpler for procurement departments to conduct a preliminary assessment of the conformance of EIT products and services to the accessibility standards that had been established.

The VPAT has grown to become a promising method for reporting global accessibility, despite its original purpose of being a tool for Section 508 compliance certification. Manufacturers and vendors of EIT products and services can now use the template to produce accessibility conformance reports (ACRs) that are pertinent to their target markets and contractual requirements by using the appropriate accessibility VPAT. There are currently four editions of the template available and applicable to different markets.

The accessibility VPATs for different markets

The first question you should ask yourself while completing your VPAT as part of the VPAT accessibility process is what market you intend your EIT products and services to be available to. After determining the market for which you want the products or services to be publicly procured, you should apply the appropriate accessibility VPAT to evaluate the accessibility of your products or services. Completing the wrong edition of the VPAT form for a given market results in an inaccurate VPAT ACR, which will not be admissible in the procurement processes in those markets.

The VPAT 2.4 508, which is based on the Revised Section 508 requirements, is the correct accessibility VPAT to utilize if you want your products or services to be purchased by U.S. federal agencies.

The VPAT 2.4 EU is the version of the VPAT that is based on the EN 301 549 accessibility criteria of the European Union and is suited for public procurement of EIT products and services in Europe.

The VPAT 2.4 Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 or WCAG 2.1 is the appropriate VPAT document to use for documenting the accessibility of your product or service if it is web-based, including websites, web content, web apps, etc.

The right VPAT template to utilize for EIT products intended for the international market is the VPAT 2.4 International (INT), which combines the VPAT 2.4 Section 508, VPAT 2.4 EU, and VPAT 2.4 WCAG 2.0/2.1.

Is VPAT compliance mandatory?

As the name implies, VPAT compliance is voluntary. However, you ought to strive to complete a VPAT for any EIT product or service you intend to be bought by the general public—and not simply because of Section 508, EN 301, 459 of the EU, and WCAG.

By completing VPATs for your products and services, you can be sure that the more you do it and record how accessible they are, the more accessibility needs you’ll find that you’re not meeting. By doing this, you can be sure that you’re always working to make your goods and services high-quality and available to everyone. This improves your business and your bottom line.

VPAT accessibility provides a simple method for everyone, not only government organizations, to compare accessibility levels for comparable products or services in order to choose the one with the most accessibility features.

Benefits of VPAT compliance for your products and services

When you complete VPATs for your products and services, customers are more likely to think about buying them since completed VPATs assist customers in making well-informed product or service selections.

Duly completed VPATs enable buyers to understand the levels of accessibility compliance associated with your products and services, which gives them grounds to compare them with other similar ones in the market.

By completing VPATs for your products and services, you can gain access to the enormous market that comprises people with disabilities. Additionally, it reflects favorably on your company as one that values accessibility. It also shields you from any legal risks that could cost you millions of dollars in legal fees.

Need assistance with VPAT accessibility?

You might begin by looking at a VPAT example created as part of Section 508 compliance certification if you need help with VPAT accessibility. If you need any other assistance, give us a call at your earliest convenience at (626) 486-2201 to arrange a consultation. Consultations are always free!

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