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Should I create a VPAT for my technology product?

23 September, 2020 by Salim Khan

a man looking at laptop screens

Often the organization are in a dilemma that they should create VPAT for the product or not?

In this blog we are trying to answer this question, so let us first start with understanding what VPAT is all about.

What is a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT)? 

A VPAT is a document about the accessibility of a product conforming to the Section 508 Standards. It can be considered as an accessibility conformance report for different Information and Communication technology (ICT) products such as applications, software, websites, electronic  products and documentation.

This document states, how a particular product meets or conforms to the Revised 508 Standards for IT accessibility. This document is published by the product vendor itself and it contains the details about each aspect of the Section 508 requirements and where does the product stand with regards to accessibility on each criterion. 

The Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) officially hosts the VPAT template document. ITI offers VPAT in four different editions enabling ICT vendors to create accessibility conformance report on the standards appropriate for their markets. 

  • VPAT 2.4Rev EU (February 2020): It is created by keeping in mind the European Union’s “Accessibility requirements suitable for public procurement of ICT products and services in Europe”. 
  • VPAT 2.4Rev 508 (February 2020): It is created by keeping in mind the U.S. Federal accessibility standard. 
  • VPAT 2.4Rev WCAG (February 2020): It is created by keeping in mind Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1. 
  • VPAT 2.4Rev INT (February 2020): This edition incorporates all the above 3 standards/guidelines.

The latest VPAT version is VPAT 2.4 . 

A VPAT document can consist reports based on different accessibility standards and guidelines as follows: 

So, make sure you always use the latest version VPAT 2.4 for creation of report. 

Now, back to the actual question about creating a VPAT for your technology product, should you or should you not? 

US Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires government agencies to make ICT accessible to people with disabilities. When you are a ICT company dealing with federal agencies it is mandatory to provide a VPAT. 

Even though it is vendor’s own free will to provide a VPAT, the simple and wise answer would be, Yes! Yes, you should create a VPAT for your technology product. Since the government agencies opt for a product with VPAT, it might be fruitful for your product to have a VPAT as it places your product into the arena where the Federal procurements are made. Without a VPAT it is quite possible that you are losing money as your product might be as good as other products available in the market. 

Let us now understand what VPAT is not all about. 

What VPAT is not all about? 

  • Companies might be hesitant in creating a VPAT report for a product as they might think their product will be shown in a bad light. Such is not the case. It is important to know that a VPAT is not a black and white statement about the conformance of a product. In factit is a report on the overall level of conformance of the product.  
  • VPAT is not about listing all the issues, but it is about giving the overview of the successes and challenges found in the product. 

What are the benefits of creating VPAT? 

VPAT is crucial document for both companies as well as buyers. 

  • Helps to boost the sales and thereby increase the revenue. 
  • Helps the company recognize the accessibility gaps and challenges of the product and work towards it. VPAT acts as a measure to make the product accessible for which the employees of the company can work towards a common goal i.e. developing accessible product. Using the VPAT report the company can look into the areas where the product needs improvement in accessibility and work towards the quality of the product constantly. 
  • Helps buyers in making an informed decision before procuring an ICT product. VPAT helps the buyers to understand a product’s level of accessibility conformance. Makes the procuring process hassle free as the buyer can get all the accessibility details through the VPAT instead of reading from the product brochure.  
  • Helps buyers to compare conformance of similar products and choose a product that best meets accessibility standards and the organization’s functional and legal requirements. In case of a conundrum, buyers can choose for an equally accessible product when a required accessible product is not available. 
  • Allows companies to provide documentation and an explanation on the level of conformance of their product. A drafted VPAT becomes a product conformance report which is an example of a company’s accessibility standard. Another benefit of VPAT is that it tells the buyers that the company is aware about the accessibility challenges of the product and is working towards making it equally accessible for all users.  

All in all, VPAT for a product benefits the organization in terms of monetary gains and builds trust and reputation. 

Where do I get my VPAT done? 

A VPAT can be created by an organization’s internal accessibility team. However, it is recommended to hire external party audit teams for the creation of VPAT. Outsourcing the VPAT ensures that the VPAT document is accurate and unbiased. Hiring external party accessibility agencies would ensure an accurate and good quality VPAT document. Since VPAT is legal document for a product, you should aim for accuracy. 

Make sure the VPAT document you create is available in accessible formats such as PDF, Word, HTML, etc. 

In conclusion it is incredibly beneficial to create a VPAT document for your technology products. 

If you are looking out for external accessibility agency to author VPAT for your product, reach out to us at sales@barrierbreak.com. 

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