Know All About VPATs And ACRs: Here’s a Complete Guide

  • 10.11.2022
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    What is a VPAT?

    A VPAT, which is an acronym for Voluntary Product Accessibility Template, is a document template that was developed by the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) in partnership with the United States General Services Administration (GSA). When filled out, the VPAT provides information about the degree to which an electronic information technology (EIT) product or service complies with the established digital accessibility standards.

    VPATs are concerned with the usability of EIT, which encompasses hardware, software, and electronic information. When it comes to federal government contracts, the template was initially created to assist businesses in proving their adherence to Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act. However, they are already a standard procedure for proving digital accessibility in both the public and private sectors. 

    Manufacturers and vendors of digital products, including software platforms and devices, are frequently required to submit accessibility proof as part of the procurement process. This proof is commonly referred to as “VPAT certification.”

    Why is VPAT certification important?

    The importance of VPAT certification lies in its capacity to let contracting officers and procurement teams evaluate EIT products and services’ support for accessibility in an unbiased manner. As a result, these teams are better able to select products and services that have the best VPAT accessibility features, which ensures that everyone who uses them—including people with disabilities—get an equivalent experience to that witnessed by everyone else.

    Additionally, IET product and service developers, sellers, and manufacturers can use VPATs to report how well their offerings adhere to the relevant accessibility requirements. This helps their internal teams improve the quality of their products and services. 

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      What is VPAT accessibility?

      You’ll hear the phrase “VPAT accessibility” a lot within the accessibility domain. It refers to the practice of making sure that EIT products and services are developed in ways that are multi-perceptual and usable for the broadest available human use, including by people with disabilities, as required by the Revised Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act or other accessibility requirements.

      Any manufacturer or vendor of an EIT product or service should give VPAT accessibility top priority since it affects how well those products or services can penetrate different markets. For instance, if an EIT product or service is not VPAT 508 (Revised Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act) certified, it cannot be considered for purchase by the federal government or any of its agencies even if it has better features or quality than those of its rivals who have VPAT certification.

      There are multiple editions of the VPAT because other markets require VPAT accessibility that complies with their accessibility criteria.

      VPAT editions and versions

      The VPAT is available in several versions. The updated standards or criteria for accessibility in the various markets are reflected in the updated versions. Some of the updates include the Revised Section 508, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 and 2.2, and EN 301 549, among others. ITI updates the VPAT to a version that incorporates these standards or recommendations updates as they are updated. The VPAT 2.4 template is the most recent and up-to-date iteration.

      Besides the VPAT’s various updates to reflect the updates in the underpinning accessibility standards and guidelines, the VPAT is available in four editions: VPAT WCAG 2.0 or 2.1, VPAT 508, VPAT European Union (EU), and VPAT International (INT).

      The VPAT WCAG 2.0/2.1 edition anchors the technical specifications and standards of the WCAG standard for websites and web or mobile applications. As was previously mentioned, the VPAT 508 serves as the foundation for the revised Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act’s accessibility standards. The technical criteria and accessibility standards specified in the VPAT WCAG template are also included in the VPAT 508 template.

      The VPAT EU template anchors the accepted accessible technical criteria and specifications in Europe. It is based on the EN 301 549 standard set by the EU. The template also incorporates the VPAT WCAG edition’s technical requirements and accessibility standards.

      Manufacturers and vendors of EIT products and services that want their EIT products or services to be sold internationally use the VPAT-INT version as a template to describe how accessible their products or services are. The VPAT WCAG edition, VPAT 508 edition, and VPAT EU edition’s technical requirements and accessibility standards are all combined into one VPAT document in this edition. This version of the VPAT template should, therefore, be used to conduct VPAT assessments for EIT products and services that will be sold on the international market.

      It’s critical to understand the differences between these VPAT editions so that, when conducting the VPAT assessment that comes before completing the VPAT, you download the correct edition, or what’s known officially in the accessibility domain as the appropriate accessibility VPAT.

      What is VPAT assessment?

      You need to conduct a VPAT assessment to get the data and information required to fill out the proper accessibility VPAT for your EIT product or service. When you hear the term “VPAT assessment” being used in the accessibility space, it refers to the evaluation of the accessibility of an EIT product or service based on the accessibility standards or guidelines.

      In order to help buyers understand the levels of conformity to the accessibility criteria that EIT products or services have, VPAT assessments help capture the specifications of the products or services.  The assessments also give businesses insightful information about the qualities of their products or services, including those that need to be improved to make the products or services more accessible. This contributes to the product or service’s ongoing improvement, which benefits a business’ earnings.

      The data and information gleaned from VPAT assessments help in precisely filling out the relevant VPAT template to produce what is known as the VPAT accessibility conformance report (ACR) in the accessibility domain.

      What is a VPAT ACR?

      A VPAT ACR is a VPAT template that has been completed or filled out and contains all the information regarding the accessibility, or otherwise, of the targeted EIT product or service. Although it is usually used to refer to the VPAT ACR report, which is technically wrong, the term “VPAT” is the one you will regularly encounter in the marketplace. Be aware that when procurement teams ask for a VPAT, they are actually asking for an ACR.

      A good VPAT ACR will contain the following information: the title of the report, the VPAT version used, the name of the product the report relates to (and, if applicable, the product version), a description of the product, the date the VPAT ACR was published, contact details, the methodology used to conduct the VPAT assessment, and any applicable VPAT standards or guidelines (WCAG 2.0, WCAG 2.1, Revised Section 508, EN 301 549).

      Do not confuse an ACR with a product audit because an audit usually goes into deeper detail about the accessibility of a product or service than an ACR does. This means that you can get an ACR for your EIT product or service at a much lower cost compared to the cost you will incur for undertaking a product audit.

      Best practice in creating ACRs

      As a best practice, ITI advises that ACRs contain a branded header with a logo or entity information, date changes if the ACR report is being revised or updated, pertinent product remarks, links to the product description, and legal disclaimers.

      Additionally, it is advised that you hire a professional who specializes in digital accessibility to do the VPAT assessment and issue your ACR. This inspires confidence about the credibility of the information provided in the ACR compared to creating the ACR in-house.

      Get help with filling out your VPAT today!

      You can learn how to fill out your VPAT from a VPAT ACR example found here. If you need help with completing a VPAT ACR for your product or service, contact ADA Compliance Pros at (626) 486-2201.