What a VPAT Reveals About an Organization’s Approach to Accessibility
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A VPAT document is a standards template developed by the Information and Technology Industry Council (ITI) in partnership with the General Services Administration (GSA) for use by manufacturers and vendors of information and communication technology (ICT) products and services to document the products’ and services’ conformance to the established accessibility standards and guidelines.
VPAT documents allow manufacturers and vendors of ICT products and services to provide comprehensive analyses of the compliance of the products and services to the accessibility standards set by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, the European Union’s EN 301 549 accessibility standards for publicly procurable ICT, and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). They, therefore, create trust and credibility in the eyes of a business’ customers and buyers.
For customers and buyers, VPATs help them make preliminary assessments regarding the availability of commercial ICT products and services with features that support accessibility. They also reveal the concerned organization’s approach toward accessibility.
Besides the information about the targeted product’s or service’s level of conformity with the criteria and technical specifications for accessible ICT, VPATs can provide unwritten information about an organization’s approach to accessibility.
It can either uncover the organization’s passion toward being inclusive and making products and services inclusive for everyone, including people with disabilities, or uncover its disinterest in accessibility, which is characterized by engaging in VPAT accessibility processes for the sake of avoiding legal and financial consequences or winning business contracts.
These “silent” issues that a VPAT report uncovers about an organization are as important as the details and explanations regarding the level of conformance to the established standards and guidelines provided with regard to their products and services.
Here are some of the things that a VPAT report can disclose regarding an organization’s approach to accessibility:
When reviewing an organization’s VPAT report, it helps to keep in mind that creating it doesn’t just happen overnight. A VPAT report that is compelling in its descriptions and explanations of how the targeted product or service conforms, or fails to conform, to the established standards and guidelines is an indication that some active work was involved in creating it.
An organization whose products and services consistently have compelling VPAT reports is definitely one that works to make its environment inclusive for everyone, including people with disabilities. This means that its leadership embraces and respects individuals’ ideas and differences in opinion so as to create inclusive work cultures that recognize the unique talents, traits, and expertise of all, including people with disabilities.
Compelling VPAT reports can frequently be associated with organizations that factor in input from both neurotypical individuals and those who have disabilities in their operations. Such organizations understand that it is a person’s skills, abilities, and attitude, not their physical or mental state of being, that make them who they are.
Organizations with compelling VPATs are also frequently associated with leadership that supports disability inclusion. Their leadership hardly differentiates people on the basis of their disabilities, which makes all employees feel respected and more satisfied with the employer. This means that such organizations will have low staff turnover.
An organization that has a properly detailed VPAT report that has explanations to help a customer or buyer better understand the accessibility of its products and customers so as to make sound purchase decisions is definitely gifted with the virtue of fortitude or patience.
A compelling VPAT accessibility conformance report (ACR) demonstrates that the authoring organization has taken long periods of time, often at the VPAT audit stage, to create the VPAT ACR.
Such organizations don’t take shortcuts for the sake of their products having VPAT reports. For these organizations, conducting a credible VPAT assessment for each of their ICT products or services, no matter how long it takes, is their hallmark.
By deciphering an organization’s VPAT report, you can discern whether the organization is open-minded and has a passion to learn and relearn or not. Being open-minded and passionate about learning and relearning are virtues that organizations that are open to accessibility have.
For such organizations, each new piece of information on how to make their products and services more accessible, including that obtained through VPAT assessments involving people with disabilities is embraced with gratitude.
Organizations that provide accessibility leadership will be distinguished through their VPAT reports, which reveal the urge to keep abreast of emerging accessibility ideas and continuously work to eliminate accessibility barriers in their products and services. These organizations will also demonstrate an interest in actively listening to people with disabilities and synthesizing a range of ideas from them such that they make them feel respected, valued, and represented.
You can detect whether an organization is willing to collaborate with others by studying its products’ or services’ VPAT ACRs. Organizations that truly value accessibility understand that for effective collaboration, all stakeholders should be encouraged to share their perspectives. They, therefore, create an environment in which both neurotypical stakeholders as well as those with disabilities feel empowered so as to promote open thinking.
The VPAT reports authored by an organization with a collaborative mindset will reveal some diversity of thought, which is critical in effective collaborations because it forges oneness toward a common accessibility goal.
A VPAT report can reveal whether an organization is open to challenging the status quo or not. Organizations that treasure accessibility are never hesitant to challenge any entrenched organizational attitudes and prejudices about making products and services accessible to everyone.
Toward this end, they push boundaries and are never afraid to acknowledge their accessibility limitations. They, however, seek the contributions of all their team members and third-party accessibility experts like ADACP as a way of ensuring they achieve their accessibility goals.
Through the VPAT reports, you can discern that an organization is a disability inclusion leader by the flexible approach it has as well as its willingness to adapt to the dynamics of the ever-changing workplace.
A VPAT report can tell you whether the authoring organization is perceptive of the realities that people with disabilities face or not. In its VPAT assessment methodology, you will read about the organization’s intuitiveness in including people with disabilities in the VPAT certification process.
People with disabilities may, for example, find it difficult to express themselves during the VPAT audit process. They may at times feel confused or overwhelmed. This is where the intuitive organization comes out strongly, as it adapts the processes to help the participating person with a disability feel comfortable and included.
An organization could create a very good VPAT report, but when you procure its product or service, you encounter challenges persuading them to help you deal with the emerging accessibility barriers. That is why, beyond the VPAT ACR, you need to know the organization’s approach toward accessibility. This can be extracted from the organization’s VPAT ACR.
Extracting the unwritten information about an organization’s approach to accessibility from the organization’s VPAT report requires expertise. It means reading between the VPAT ACR lines to unmask the organization’s practical stance toward accessibility.
If you need help extracting critical information about an organization’s approach toward accessibility from the organization’s VPAT report, call (626) 486-2201 to arrange a consultation at a time that works for you. Our consultations are always free.