How a VPAT is Important for a Tech Company Seeking to Secure a Contract with the Government, Large Corporations, Universities, etc.

  • 26.11.2022
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    Uncle Sam and large institutions can get your tech company contracts worth billions, but…

    Did you know that working with or delivering electronic and information technology products and services to the federal government, large corporations, and universities, among others, can earn you billions of dollars if you run a tech company?

    The federal government, for example, is the world’s greatest purchaser of products and services! It spends $400 billion per year on everything from paper clips to fighter-jet training services. Even if your tech company is modest, the federal government has an annual objective of allocating 23% of the dividend to small businesses. That is almost $80 billion.

    Given the enormous economic impact of government policies, procedures, and practices, institutions, large corporations, universities, and astute business community actors frequently align their business operations with these. That is because the government’s innovative procurement offers tremendous opportunities to use government-buying power to shape the world around us for a better tomorrow.

    Battle against biases toward people with disabilities

    People with disabilities have had to battle centuries of biased assumptions, harmful stereotypes, and irrational fears. As a result of disability stigma, generations of Americans with disabilities have been socially and economically disenfranchised.

    President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the first president with a disability, was a strong advocate for the rehabilitation of people with disabilities, but he still believed that a disability was an aberrant, embarrassing condition that could be medically treated or rectified.

    Between the 1840s and the 1950s, World War II veterans with disabilities put increased pressure on the government, bringing disability issues to the attention of a grateful nation worried about the long-term wellbeing of those who had given their lives to ensure the safety of the United States.

    Despite these gains, people with disabilities continued to lack access to public transit, telephones, bathrooms, and other essential services. People with impairments who were otherwise talented and qualified were also denied opportunities for meaningful work.

    The VPAT process is complicated. Let us handle it for you.

      One civil rights statute focused on people with disabilities

      Disability rights advocates petitioned Congress and marched on Washington in the 1970s, urging the inclusion of civil rights language for people with disabilities in the 1972 Rehabilitation Act. This contributed to the enactment of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which provides legal protection for people with disabilities’ civil rights.

      Disability activists began to advocate in the 1980s for the consolidation of multiple pieces of law pertaining to the rights of people with disabilities into a single civil rights statute. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) resulted from this in 1990 after years of intense campaigning and lobbying.

      The ADA strives to provide people with disabilities with equal treatment and access to employment opportunities and public amenities. It forbids handicap discrimination in employment, state and municipal government services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications services.

      While the ADA established explicit legislative demands for equal access and treatment of people with disabilities, long-held prejudices and stereotyped biases remained. People with disabilities faced prejudice and hostility in the form of physical barriers to educational institutions, healthcare facilities, and housing, among other things.

      Employing the government-buying power to drive toward accessibility

      In 1998, Congress revised the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to require federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities.

      The previous version of the revised Section 508 of the Act provided non-binding principles for technology accessibility. The amendment established legally binding and enforceable standards and incorporated them into federal procurement regulations.

      To be more specific, the updated Section 508 of the Act mandates the federal government to buy, create, use, and maintain accessible information and communication technology (ICT) for people with disabilities, regardless of whether or not they work for the federal government.

      The VPAT and the Revised Section 508

      Given the Revised Section 508’s binding nature, there was a need to document how Revised Section 508 compliant electronic and information technology (EIT) products and services were in order to facilitate effective market research for EIT products and services with the most accessible features to be procured or used by the federal government. The updated Section 508 contains standards for making EIT accessible to, and so useable by, people with disabilities.

      To improve the accessibility of EIT products and services, the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) and the General Services Administration (GSA) developed the voluntary product accessibility template (VPAT). VPAT accessibility is required to participate in federal government procurement processes and to secure contracts to deliver EIT products and services to the federal government, federal agencies, and federally funded institutions.

      What is VPAT accessibility?

      VPAT accessibility is the ecosystem of activities and processes that culminate in the conformity of EIT products and services to existing accessibility standards or guidelines as harmonized in the relevant VPAT form.

      The VPAT form is available in four editions, each of which anchors the many existing accessibility standards or principles. If your tech company wants to offer EIT products in markets where the standards or recommendations apply, you must demonstrate the VPAT accessibility of the product or service with respect to accessibility standards set for that market.

      There are now three standards or criteria that apply to the accessibility of EIT products and services: the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), the Revised Section 508 Standard, and the EN 301 549 standard for accessibility in Europe.

      The criteria and technical specifications related with these standards or guidelines are included in four editions of the VPAT: the VPAT WCAG 2.0/2.1, the VPAT Section 508, the VPAT European Union (EU), and the VPAT International (INT).

      The VPAT WCAG 2.0/2.1 edition includes the criteria and technical specifications for website and web-based application accessibility. The VPAT Section 508 version includes the criteria and technical standards for the federal government’s acceptable accessibility requirements.

      The VPAT EU edition includes criteria and technical specifications for European accessibility expectations, whereas the VPAT INT includes all of the accessibility criteria and technical specifications found in the other three VPAT editions and is used to ensure VPAT accessibility for EIT products and services destined for the global market.

      As a result, VPAT accessibility begins with selecting the relevant edition of the VPAT form to utilize in leading you through your VPAT testing and creating the accessibility conformance report. The final step in assuring VPAT accessibility is to ensure that your VPAT ACR is clearly, precisely, and thoroughly filled out and made available for review by prospective customers of the targeted EIT product or service.

      Who needs a VPAT?

      If you want to conduct business with any government in the United States or any entity that services or is supported by those governments, you must have an up-to-date Section 508 VPAT ACR.

      If you wish to sell your technology product or service in Europe, you must have an up-to-date EU VPAT ACR. Manufacturers and suppliers who want to sell their EIT products and services on the worldwide market must use the VPAT INT to create their VPAT ACR.

      Large businesses and institutions, including as universities, are increasingly asking providers of EIT products and services to provide VPAT certification. That is why, whether you want to do business with the federal government or not, producing VPAT ACRs for your technology products and services allows them to be procured by these non-state actors.

      Get help with creating an acceptable ACR using a VPAT 2.4 template

      We may be able to help you secure a contract with the federal government, large corporations, universities, and other mega corporate entities by assisting you with building or revising your ACR using the VPAT 2.4 template, which is the most recent version of the VPAT form. To speak with one of our VPAT accessibility specialists, please use our contact page or call (626) 486-2201.