Expanding Your Business Potential Through VPAT Accessibility
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To understand what VPAT accessibility is, let’s single out the two terms involved: “VPAT” and “accessibility.”
“VPAT” is an acronym for “Voluntary Product Accessibility Template.” It is a prototype form that was created by the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) in partnership with the General Services Administration (GSA) in 2001 to further accessibility based on the amendment of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by Congress in 1998.
The revised Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires federal agencies to create, buy, maintain, and use information and communication technology (ICT) that is accessible to people with disabilities.
The VPAT was developed to provide a standard tool for organizations and businesses to use in describing and explaining the extent to which their ICT products and services conform to the established accessibility standards and guidelines.
“Accessibility” is the practice of making information, activities, and/or environments sensible, meaningful, and usable for as many people as possible, including people with disabilities.
From the foregoing, VPAT accessibility is the practice of using the VPAT to make ICT products and services sensible, meaningful, and usable for as many people as possible, including people with disabilities.
VPAT accessibility involves four key steps: choosing the correct VPAT edition, conducting the VPAT assessment, completing the VPAT to generate the VPAT accessibility conformance report (ACR), and making the VPAT ACR publicly accessible.
There are four VPAT editions that you can choose from to guide you through the VPAT accessibility process: the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0/2.1 VPAT edition, the Section 508 VPAT edition, the European Union (EU) VPAT edition, and the VPAT International (INT) edition.
You choose a VPAT edition based on the market you want your ICT product or service to be publicly procurable in or based on the requirements provided in the request to bid for the supply of ICT products or services by a buyer.
The WCAG 2.0/2.1 VPAT edition is used to document the conformance of websites and web-based products and services to the web content accessibility guidelines.
The Section 508 VPAT edition is used to document the conformance of ICT products and services to the Revised Section 508 Standards. This edition of the VPAT also contains the accessibility criteria and technical specifications found in the WCAG 2.0 VPAT edition.
This means that the accessibility of ICT products and services, including websites and web-based products and services, which are to be procurable by federal organizations, should be documented using this edition of the VPAT.
The EU VPAT edition is used to document the conformance of ICT products and services to the EN 301 549 standards for ICT that are publicly procurable in Europe. This edition of the VPAT contains the WCAG 2.1 accessibility criteria as provided in the WCAG 2.1 VPAT edition.
The VPAT INT edition combines the accessibility criteria and technical specifications contained in all the other three VPAT editions. This edition of the VPAT is used for documenting the accessibility of ICT products and services that are publicly procurable globally.
VPAT assessments are the essence of every VPAT accessibility process. It is at this stage that the data and information used to complete the VPAT form and generate the VPAR ACR are gathered.
Garbage-In-Garbage-Out (GIGO), as is known to all computer users, is also exemplified here: If you receive inaccurate data and information during the VPAT audit stage, your VPAT will be inaccurate.
Inaccurate VPATs could subject you to costly risks, including lawsuits, legal fines, and brand reputation damage. That is why it is always advisable to contract a third-party accessibility professional like ADACP to help you with your VPAT assessments.
Perhaps the most delicate aspect of VPAT accessibility is filling out the VPAT document to generate a VPAT ACR.
You can obtain superb data and information during the VPAT testing stage but fail to fill out theVPAT form correctly. This can impact your brand’s reputation as well as open up possibilities for lawsuits and hefty fines.
Just as with conducting a proper VPAT test on your products and services, it is advisable to hire a third-party professional to complete the VPAT ACR for you.
To serve its intended purposes, a VPAT ACR should be made public. In this way, it is able to help your customers make informed purchase decisions, improve your chances of winning business bids, boost your credibility and reputation as an organization or business committed to accessibility, and enhance the value of your product or service, among others.
You can make your VPAT ACR publicly accessible through a link that is accessible on every page of your website, or you can indicate the contact details where anyone who wants it can reach out to get a copy.
VPAT accessibility provides numerous opportunities for business expansion. Some of these opportunities include the following:
During the VPAT assessment stage of VPAT accessibility, you business goes into a structured introspection focusing on the key features of its products and services. This often involves open-minded listening to accessibility experts like ADACP, who have helped many businesses navigate from having products and services of low quality to those that have become the envy of many.
VPAT accessibility helps identify quality issues, including those associated with accessibility, in a product or service. This ensures tailored efforts aimed at dealing with the identified accessibility or quality issues. The end result is products and services that meet the expectations of your customers, which helps to expand your business horizons.
VPAT accessibility responds to the needs of the market comprised of people with disabilities. There are about 1.3 billion people with disabilities in the world. It is also reported that 1 in every 4 adults in the U.S. has a disability.
These people have needs and want to buy products and services that meet those needs. Espousing VPAT accessibility enables your business to tap into this huge market as you enable them to enjoy quality living.
Without VPAT accessibility, your business is excluding itself from the lucrative business that federal organizations are offering to businesses whose products and services are VPAT certified.
If your products or services do not have VPAT certification, they will not be able to participate in federal procurement processes, even if they meet high quality standards. VPAT accessibility can therefore expand your business by enabling you to win federal contracts.
ADACP can help you with the entire process of VPAT accessibility and help you grab the opportunities that come with having complete and accurate VPAT ACRs for all your ICT products and services.
Call (626) 486-2201 to arrange a consultation at a time that works for you, and one of our accessibility experts will be assigned to support you through the entire VPAT compliance journey. Please note that our consultations are always free.