The Beginner’s Guide to VPAT Compliance: 10 Things You Need to Know

  • 2.06.2022
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    What is a VPAT?

    A VPAT, or Voluntary Product Accessibility Template, is a document that allows a company or organization to provide a thorough analysis of their products’ or services’ compliance with the accessibility standards established by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.

    The VPAT document outlines key accessibility requirements and provides a structure for manufacturers and vendors to outline the levels of accessibility compliance for their products and services, along with explanatory remarks. In a nutshell, it reveals the current level of accessibility for a product or service.

    A VPAT typically has two sections: best practices and accessibility instructions and the Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR). The instructions and best practices section usually explain the guidelines and how to properly test against the set standards. A VPAT ACR is typically only used internally.

    What a VPAT is not

    A VPAT is not a product or service accessibility audit report. VPATs are also not limited to the federal government and its agencies. Many organizations are now requesting accessibility VPATs because they are the only way to accurately assess a product or service’s accessibility compliance. VPATs are also not limited to web-based products. They are applicable to all ICT products and services.

    Sections of a VPAT

    The following sections comprise a VPAT: title, product name and version, product description, report date, contact information, notes, evaluation methods used, report information, terms, and tables for each standard or guidance.

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      Who needs a VPAT and why do they need it?

      A VPAT document is required for anyone who provides electronic or information technology that can or will be used by federal government employees. Section 508 mandates that any product or service used by federal employees be accessible.

      If you provide any product or service that is or will be used directly or indirectly by federally funded organizations, you are federally funded by extension, and Section 508 accessibility compliance regulations may apply to you.

      A VPAT is required because it assists you in identifying and correcting accessibility issues. Your company or organization is missing out on significant opportunities simply because it lacks a VPAT that clearly defines the compliance of its products and services.

      Tendering and procurement personnel require VPATs to assess the accessibility of vendor solutions and services. Vendors are increasingly being required to submit VPATs detailing the accessibility of their products and services by federal agencies and many organizations.

      Tendering and procurement personnel review the VPATs sections to provide guidance to all parties involved in the process. Thus, VPATs improve the integrity of tendering and procurement processes.

      You’ll therefore need a VPAT if your business or organization meets any of the following:

      • Is a federal government agency.
      • Is federally funded.
      • Is contracted by the federal government, its agency, or a federally funded organization.
      • You’re marketing a product to the federal government, its agencies, or a federally funded organization.
      • Work in a tendering or procurement process in the federal government, its agencies, or federally funded organizations.]
      • The company you are wishing to do business with insists on you submitting a VPAT as one of their requirements for digital property vendors.

      Getting a Section 508 VPAT and ACR faster

      You will receive your Section 508 VPAT and ACR faster if you hire Section 508 audit experts. The professionals are well-versed in accessibility concepts, guidelines, and testing methodologies.

      While you can train your internal teams to author your VPAT and ACR, most organizations lack the internal capacity to create an accurate VPAT as well as align everything to the accessibility domain knowledge.

      A VPAT audit is often the first step in authoring your VPAT and ACR. This VPAT evaluation identifies any accessibility issues with your product or service.

      After evaluating the degree of accessibility of your product or service, the VPAT is completed by a person who understands VPAT rules and guidelines as well as the chosen VPAT version. The VPAT report that follows identifies the accessibility areas that need to be improved.

      What are the available VPAT editions?

      The VPAT form comes in four editions. They are as follows:

      • VPAT 2.4, which is based on the Revised Section 508 Standards and includes WCAG 2.0 as well as individual chapters in Section 508.
      • VPAT 2.4 WCAG, which is used for reporting conformance based on WCAG 2.0 or WCAG 2.1.
      • VPAT 2.4 EU, which is used for reporting on EN 301 549 requirements as well as WCAG 2.0, 2.1, or ISO/IEC 40500.
      • INT, which incorporates all three of the above standards.

      How to read a VPAT

      The VPAT document’s body is made up of standards, such as 1.1.1 Non-Text Content. This is followed by the relevant types of terminology to which this criterion applies. The “Conformance Level” column is where authors enter their scores for the criteria in column one.

      ITI recommends five values for this column: “Supports,” “Partially Supports,” “Does Not Support,” “Not Applicable,” and “Not Evaluated.” The majority of the content in the VPAT is usually found in the last column, “Remarks.” Here are the details that support the conformance level.

      In addition to reading the data columns, you can determine the accuracy of a VPAT by carefully reading the cover page. Some of the information typically found here, such as the product name and contact information, may be of particular interest. This section also includes information like the evaluation methods used and the date. These can indicate how thoroughly the authors researched the product when creating the VPAT document.

      How to determine a good VPAT

      You can tell if a VPAT is good by looking at who wrote it. Third-party authors of VPATs bring a better understanding of the relevant criteria as well as the ability to interpret the level of accessibility within a product more accurately.

      A party with fewer ties to a product will most likely have a more objective viewpoint that is more similar to that of the real-world user.

      A good VPAT will have a substantial amount of content on the cover page. This will include specific information about the type of testing in the “Evaluation Methods Used” section on the cover page. This helps readers understand how the testing method was carried out and indicates whether the testing was carried out rigorously.

      Succinctly, a good VPAT will have the following characteristics:

      • Provides explanations for all criteria used in authoring it.
      • Uses conventional wording such, as “Supports,” “Partially Supports,” Does Not Support, and “Not Applicable.”
      • Has a clear description of the product, including the product’s features.
      • Refers to existing accessibility testing tools in the undertaken testing.
      • Demonstrates that someone wrote it other than the product manufacturer or vendor.

      Assessing the accuracy of a VPAT

      A VPAT’s accuracy can be determined by reading through it and testing it. While reading a VPAT, consider whether it refers to known accessibility issues with the product, accurately describes the product, includes reasonable evaluation methods, uses correct terminology, and has properly completed tables.

      The VPAT is mostly used to test websites and can focus on the keyboard, pause, stop, and hide functionality, bypass blocks, and error detection. To test the product with the keyboard, ensure that all items are accessible and that all active items have a clearly visible keyboard focus indicator. Check that you can access all popups, menus, and submission forms, among other things.

      The pause, stop and hide checks involve determining whether there is movement on the site and whether the site has pause, stop, and hide features that are accessible. To test the bypass clocks, determine whether every page has a skip link and if it is the first focusable link on the page. The process of identifying errors entails submitting an empty or incorrect form and determining whether the errors are properly described.

      If the answer to any of these questions is no, check the relevant cells in the VPAT table to see if the problem you discovered is explained there. If not, you have an incorrect VPAT.

      How often should I update my VPAT?

      There are no time constraints for updating your VPAT. However, because the accessibility dynamics are constantly changing, it is beneficial to update your VPAT ACR every year. This ensures that you incorporate significant features as they are released or if the user interface undergoes significant changes.

      Get more information and help with VPAT compliance today!

      Call ADA Compliance Pros at (626) 486-2201 for more information and assistance with VPAT ACR, VPAT audits, VPAT testing, and VPAT document examples.