The Essential VPAT Guide for 2023
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According to the predictions made for the information and communications technology (ICT) sector, the growth that was seen in 2022 will continue into 2023. This well-sourced predictionimplies that the businesses that survived the instability of 2022 will use their newly acquired resilience as a launchpad for the future.
Businesses will probably decide to concentrate increased effort on improving the world around them as a result of the constantly changing global events. Many of the world’s problems already have strong forward momentum. Therefore, it is believed that organizations and companies that decide to influence social issues, like improved accessibility, will promote increased progress in those spheres.
It is necessary to stress that by 2023, financial means, linguistic obstacles, and geographic reach will all be much less of a barrier in the future business world.
More opportunities than ever before will be available to businesses and organizations to diversify their workforces, attract new clients, and create new products. Entities will increasingly build on lessons learned in 2022 to achieve greater heights, whether it be by extending present offerings or switching to new business models.
The push to make products and services more accessible to the estimated 1.3 billion individuals (or 1 in 6 people) who live with serious disabilities will be a key trend to watch in the ICT sector.
The fact that some people with disabilities die up to 20 years earlier than those without disabilities due to inaccessible products and services will serve as a catalyst for the need for more products and services with more accessible features.
For instance, it is projected that people with disabilities are twice as likely to suffer diseases including depression, asthma, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and poor dental health as a result of inaccessible healthcare products and services.
According to the World Health Organization, it can be up to six times harder for persons with disabilities to access healthcare facilities that are not accessible. Inaccessible and expensive transportation is 15 times more difficult for people with disabilities to use than it is for people without disabilities.
Therefore, health-related disparities result from the unfavorable circumstances that people with disabilities must deal with. These difficulties in the healthcare sector are also present in other industries, including those of banking and finance, education, retail and e-commerce, and software and SaaS.
ICT products and services have been depended upon to propel enhanced accessibility across numerous sectors because of the crosscutting role that ICT plays in a number of industries.
The 2022 achievements made possible by ICT, such as helping to lower costs, increase productivity, enhance corporate performance, reduce instances of corruption by assisting with the keeping of accurate records, and expedite transactions, among others, will continue in 2023, but at a quicker rate.
A trend that gained traction in 2022 and is anticipated to accelerate as more ICT product and service manufacturers and vendors comply with the established accessibility standards is the widespread adoption of the voluntary product accessibility template (VPAT) as a tool for encouraging reflection regarding making ICT products and services accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities.
A VPAT is a prototype document created by the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) in collaboration with the General Services Administration (GSA) to assist buyers in making decisions about the ICT products and services to purchase.
A properly completed VPAT enables buyers of ICT products and services to comprehend the level of accessibility compliance a specific product or service has, allows them to compare the accessibility of similar products or services, directs them in selecting the product or service that best meets the established accessibility standards and their organization’s functional and legal requirements, and facilitates planning for equally effective accessible products or services when the desired accessibility level is not yet achieved.
The process of completing a VPAT will also improve a firms’ capacity to reflect on whether there are aspects of their goods or services that exclude them from particular markets, particularly the sizable market comprised of people with disabilities.
This self-examination, which is done as part of VPAT accessibility processes and actions, assisted many manufacturers and vendors of ICT products and services in 2022 in improving the accessibility and quality of their products and services, leading to their increased penetration into markets that they were previously excluded from.
The term “VPAT accessibility” is used to describe the procedures or actions taken to inform potential customers of ICT products and services about the degree of compliance with established accessibility requirements that a specific product or service has achieved.
The first step in ensuring VPAT accessibility is establishing the market reach your ICT product or service should have. Next is to select the appropriate version of the VPAT template to use when documenting the accessibility of that product or service.
There are four different versions of the VPAT form: Section 508 VPAT 2.4, which is anchored by the Revised Section 508 standards, the U.S. Federal accessibility standards; VPAT 2.4 EU, which is anchored by the EN 301 549 accessibility requirements for public procurement of ICT products and services in Europe; VPAT 2.4 Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 or 2.1, which is anchored by the WCAG; and VPAT 2.4 International (INT), which combines all three of the aforementioned standards.
To create a VPAT accessibility conformance report (ACR) that complies with the accessibility requirements regulating those markets, a manufacturer or vendor of an ICT product or service must be aware of the market in which he or she wants their products to be sold.
If, for example, a manufacturer or vendor wants the federal organizations to procure his or her ICT products or services, it will be imperative for them to use Section 508 VPAT 2.4, because it is the one that federal contracting officials and procurement teams use to make preliminary research and assessments for ICT products or services that align with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.
VPAT accessibility also involves VPAT testing, which entails undertaking an audit of the product or service for which the VPAT is to be filled out. During the testing, all the features of the product or service are audited or assessed to establish whether they have barriers that prevent some people from using them.
The output of a VPAT test is a report on the accessibility of the tested product or service. The report identifies, among other things, the aspects of the product or service that need to be enhanced to make them more easily accessible.
If necessary, the accessibility specialist conducting the VPAT audit can collaborate with the company’s product or service development teams to address any accessibility issues discovered or provide information about what the company plans to do in response.
Businesses have been hiring third-party organizations with extensive experience and knowledge in the accessibility domain to help them create impenetrable VPAT reports due to the technical complexity of comparing the accessibility of a product or service to the established accessibility requirements, which necessitates factual and objective information – in many cases the procurement process insists on a third-party accessibility expert to conduct the audit and draft the VPAT.
This has assisted these businesses in avoiding the risky legal and financial repercussions of having inaccurate or incomplete VPAT reports. In order to obtain a significant competitive edge in various sectors, analysts predict that in 2023, the trend of ICT manufacturers and vendors turning to third-party accessibility professionals like ADA Compliance Pros to establish or update their VPAT ACRs will intensify.
A third-party agency can assist a business in assessing and reporting on the accessibility of its ICT products or services and also help to give the business’s final VPAT ACR the legitimacy needed to win contracts to provide products or services to a particular buyer. These organizations conduct VPAT testing with the goal of compiling and making available a VPAT report that increases the likelihood that a company will be awarded contracts to provide the products or services.
ICT will play a far larger role in the world of business in 2023, as was said in the article’s beginning. This implies that a business must match its plan with all of the rules in the book in order to prevail in the competition that will ensue. Businesses cannot afford to have their products or services excluded from specific markets, including the market for people who have disabilities.
For savvy ICT manufacturers and sellers, VPAT accessibility will continue to be a game-changer in 2023. This is based on the projection that increasingly more private buyers will align with the public procurement standards requiring the purchase of products and services with the most accessible features.
By studying this VPAT example, you can ensure that you don’t fall behind in implementing VPAT accessibility. Doing so will help you understand how to create a VPAT ACR for each of your ACT products or services. Call (626) 486-2201 to arrange a consultation at a time that works for you if you require any more help with VPAT accessibility. Consultations are always free.