Tips on Filling Out a VPAT For Healthcare Electronic and Information Technology Products and Services
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Did you know that people with disabilities are more likely to face severe barriers to receiving healthcare? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), when persons with disabilities seek healthcare, they frequently face stigma and discrimination, as well as receiving suboptimal care. As a result, they have poorer socioeconomic outcomes and higher rates of poverty than the general population.
Disparities in access to and quality of care have been linked to physical health deficiencies and higher chronic illness burdens for people with disabilities compared to their peers without disabilities. Disparities in healthcare exist in the United States of America (USA), despite the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, which guarantee equal access to healthcare services.
Multiple actors contribute to these imbalances, including poor accommodations for electronic and information technology (EIT) demands, as well as healthcare practitioners’ implicit and explicit biases, attitudes, and behaviors toward people with disabilities.
In 1998, Congress demonstrated leadership by revising the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to require federal agencies to make their EIT accessible to people with disabilities. The objective behind this amendment is to use the federal government’s purchasing power to prioritize more accessible EIT products and services over less accessible ones. This is meant to instill impetus in the EIT industry to address long-standing accessibility barriers.
In healthcare, for example, assistive technology for people with disabilities can be magical by making previously inaccessible healthcare products and services accessible. However, if the underlying EITs do not play their part in fostering the provision of information and operability for those assistive technologies to stand on, people with disabilities will not be able to accomplish much accessibility. That is where you and I can come in handy.
The framework for our participation is supported by the ADA, the Revised Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the voluntary product accessibility template (VPAT) developed and regularly updated by the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) to assist buyers of EIT products and services in determining how well the products and services they purchase meet the Revised Section 508 accessibility standards.
Many organizations outside the federal government in the United States, for example, are helping to mainstream accessibility by requiring the production of an accessibility conformance report (ACR) as part of their procurement processes. Helping to institutionalize this practice across all healthcare systems can help to mainstream VPAT compliance in the healthcare network and ensure people with disabilities are not excluded.
VPAT compliance refers to the ecosystem of processes and practices that support conformity with established accessibility standards, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), Revised Section 508, and the European Union’s EN 301 549 accessibility standard, as outlined in the relevant VPAT edition. The methods and practices include VPAT testing, filling out the VPAT report, and making the VPAT report available to potential consumers of your product or service.
If you work in the healthcare industry or any other industry that relies on EIT products or services to carry out its mandates, VPAT compliance can help you avoid losing clients to competition. This is because, internationally, a rising number of individuals are turning to products and services they feel are either available to all or provided by businesses and organizations devoted to social inclusion.
A study by Nielson Global Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), for example, established that 55% of its respondents from various countries worldwide said they were willing to spend extra money on socially responsible merchandise, which speaks to the essence of VPAT compliance.
Perhaps the most effective way you can contribute to the normalization of digital accessibility in healthcare is to encourage accurate VPAT testing for EIT products and services intended for use in the healthcare industry. By providing feedback on the accessibility of these products or services, you are assisting their producers or vendors in correcting the detected accessibility problems. This ultimately helps to make the products or services accessible to everyone.
VPAT testing for an EIT product or service refers to evaluating the various elements of the EIT product or service using the criteria and technical requirements outlined in the appropriate edition of the VPAT.
The VPAT is available in four editions: the VPAT WCAG 2.0/2.1, which is used to assess and develop VPAT reports for EIT products and services that meet the web content accessibility guidelines; the VPAT Section 508; the VPAT EU, which is used to test and report on EIT products and services intended for the European market based on the EU’s EN 301 549 accessibility standards; and the VPAT International (INT), which contains all the criteria and technical specifications in the VPAT WCAG edition, the VPAT Section 508 edition, and the VPAT EU edition.
Following accurate and trustworthy VPAT testing, the VPAT report should be filled out accurately, simply, and comprehensively. Here are some hints for completing the report:
As previously stated, an appropriate VPAT report is one that was prepared with the correct VPAT edition. Using a VPAT intended for federal government procurement processes (VPAT Section 508) for EIT items or services intended for the European or worldwide market would be incorrect.
Although there are no legal restrictions on who can perform VPAT testing and generate a VPAT report, engaging an impartial third-party to conduct the testing and develop your VPAT report has been established to give reliable and honest VPAT certification.
Many EIT product or service buyers do not have the time or patience to question the accessibility of a product or service as indicated in the VPAT report, instead relying on the reputation of third-party unbiased VPAT compliance professionals to make a purchasing decision. Having a credible third-party professional on your side could thus help you secure a purchase order at face value!
When submitting the VPAT for a healthcare EIT product or service, be certain that all of the necessary elements are accurately, exactly, and totally captured. These include the report title, VPAT heading information, the name of the product or version of the product, the product description, the date of report publication, contact information, any details or further explanations about the product or the report, evaluation methods used, applicable standards and guidelines, descriptions of conformance level terms, tables for each standard and guideline, and detailed remarks and explanations to justify the information provided in the report.
When filling out the VPAT for a healthcare EIT product or service, keep accessibility in mind for both the product or service and the VPAT report itself. Write the material in a way that allows the intended target audience to comprehend and use the VPAT report.
The most basic recommendation for completing a VPAT report is to verify that the person you entrust with it is familiar with accessibility, including the underlying standards or guidelines, applicable regulations, accessibility tools, and any updates to the accessibility frameworks.
The most important aspect of having an accessibility expert fill out your VPAT is that it ensures you of the correct edition of the VPAT being used, the value for money if you use a third-party expert, that no key features of the VPAT will be incorrectly or incompletely completed, and gives you confidence that he or she will use “accessibility lenses” when filling out the VPAT.
We can assist you in doing VPAT testing and completing a VPAT report for your healthcare EIT product or service. To contact us, please use our contact page or call (626) 486-2201, and one of our experienced VPAT compliance experts will be happy to assist you.