Should I Create a VPAT for my Technology Product?

  • 28.05.2022
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    An organization’s internal accessibility team can create a VPAT. However, it is recommended that external audit teams be hired for the creation of VPAT. Outsourcing the VPAT document ensures that it is accurate and unbiased.

    Hiring a VPAT vendor or an external accessibility agency would ensure that the VPAT document is accurate and of high quality. Because the VPAT is a legal document for a product, accuracy is essential and mistakes or incorrect documentation can lead to possible fines or penalties.

    The Rehabilitation Act’s Section 508 mandates that the federal government and its agencies make information and communication technology (ICT) products and services accessible to people with disabilities.

    The Act specifically requires the federal government to acquire, create, use, and maintain ICT that is accessible to people with disabilities, regardless of whether they work for the federal government.

    Understanding Section 508 Compliance and VPATs

    Section 508 was enacted to remove barriers in information technology, provide new opportunities for people with disabilities, and encourage the development of technologies that aid in these endeavors.

    The federal government must provide employees with disabilities and members of the public with access to information comparable to that available to people without disabilities.

    The Act’s definition of “Electronic and Information Technology (EIT)” is broad, and it applies to a diverse range of individuals and organizations, depending on who they are and what they do with EIT.

    Section 508 will apply to you if you are a provider of EIT, including a technology product that will be used by federal government employees.

    Section 508 applies to you even if you do not directly sell the technology to the public if the technology is made available to them.

    If you provide EIT that will be used by anyone whom the federal government has directly or indirectly funded, that implies you are federally funded and Section 508 applies to you.

    As the technology provider, you will be required to provide a VPAT. If you do not meet the VPAT accessibility requirements, you will be unable to be selected as an EIT provider to the federal government, its agencies, or any organization funded by the federal government.

    You may not be a vendor selling technology products, but if you use EIT, such as a website used by anyone who is directly or indirectly funded by the federal government, Section 508 will apply to you.

    Federally funded buyers of your product or service may want to use your service, but if they discover you aren’t Section 508 compliant, they may never consider you as a potential vendor. This means that if you fail to provide an accurate VPAT, you may lose business, particularly from government agencies.

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

      VPAT Accessibility

      Before explaining what VPAT accessibility entails, let us address a common question from vendors and buyers. “What is a VPAT?”

      In response to Section 508, the Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC) created the VPAT template.

      When completed, a VPAT is referred to as a VPAT ACR or a VPAT report, and it assists federal contracting officials, buyers, and vendors in making preliminary assessments regarding the compliance of ICT equipment and software with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.

      The VPAT functions as both a requirements and specifications document, with multiple sections dealing with various functional EIT areas. Each section of the template is in the form of a table with the three columns listed below:

      • Criteria: This defines the Section 508 accessibility requirements.
      • Supporting Feature: This column is used by EIT vendors to specify how the criteria are applicable to their technology products.
      • Remarks and explanations: This is a column that EIT vendors can use to provide clarifications on how the specifications meet the set requirements.

      The goal of a VPAT is to find a solution to the problem of determining a product’s accessibility, particularly when comparing two or more similar products for purchase.

      The template aims to standardize all accessibility regulations into a single, easy-to-understand format. This ensures that staff procuring technology products and services will not need to be accessibility experts, but will simply be able to read the document to determine the information they require.

      VPAT accessibility is thus the practice of making ICT accessible to people with disabilities through the use of a VPAT in order to achieve Section 508 compliance.

      Is creating VPATs for technology products mandatory?

      Some businesses may be hesitant to create VPATs for their products because they are concerned that the products will be portrayed negatively. This is not the case because VPATs are not black-and-white statements about a product’s or service’s conformance. It is essentially a report on the product’s overall level of conformance.

      If your business or service is covered by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, primarily those that do business with the federal government or receive federal government funds, you must create a VPAT.

      Here is why you should create a VPAT for your technology product:

      1. The VPAT will assist buyers of your technology product in determining how accessible the product is and where potential flaws may exist. Some buyers require VPATs before making a purchase.
      2. The VPAT can assist you in increasing the sales of your technology products and, as a result, your revenue.
      3. It will assist you in identifying accessibility gaps in your technology product as well as product challenges so that you can work to address them.
      4. It can help rally your employees around a common goal, which is developing an accessible product, by acting as a measure to make your product accessible.
      5. It simplifies the purchasing process for buyers of your product because they can obtain all accessibility information through the VPAT rather than reading from the product brochure.
      6. It enables your business to provide documentation and explanations about the product’s level of conformance.
      7. It informs buyers that your company is aware of any accessibility issues with the product and is working to make it equally accessible to all users.

      Toward creating your VPAT 

      Remember that a VPAT is voluntary, and you can choose whether or not to create and provide one. However, advocating for VPAT accessibility will aid in delivering the aforementioned benefits.

      When you decide to make your VPAT, make sure to get the most recent version of the template. There are several versions of the template, each reflecting the most current standards. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, Section 508 Revised, EN 301-549, and international are among them. VPAT 2.4 is the most recent and up-to-date version.

      The VPAT’s various editions enable ICT manufacturers and vendors to create an Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR) that is relevant to their target markets and contract requirements.

      How to get your VPAT done?

      You can create a VPAT for your technology product by tasking an internal accessibility team. However, it is recommended that you hire outside professionals to assist you with the creation of your VPAT. Outsourcing the creation of a VPAT ensures that the document you receive is accurate, of high quality, and unbiased.

      Connect with us today to learn more about how we can provide you with a comprehensive approach to VPAT accessibility, including our automated and manual VPAT auditing capabilities.

      You can also contact us at (626) 486-2201 for assistance with a range of VPAT managed services. You can find an example of a VPAT by clicking here.