What are the Connections Between a VPAT and WCAG?

  • 14.10.2022
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    VPAT vs WCAG

    If your business involves the supply or use of websites and mobile applications, you’ll frequently interact with the terms, “VPAT” and “WCAG” in your journey toward ensuring VPAT compliance for your products or services. So what do they mean or represent?

    “VPAT” is an acronym for Voluntary Product Accessibility Template, which is a blank template that can be filled out to account for the accessibility of an information communication technology (ICT) product or service. An accessibility conformance report (ACR), also commonly referred to as VPAT ACR, is the blank VPAT template that has been filled out with the details about the accessibility of the associated ICT product or service.

    You’ll frequently hear procurement officials ask you for a VPAT when they actually mean the filled out VPAT ACR. While the term that dominates the marketplace is VPAT, whenever you hear procurement asking for it, know that what they actually want you to provide them with is the VAPT ACR. Usage of the term “VPAT” to relate to the filled out VPAT report is technically incorrect.

    Are VPAT ACRs used for websites and mobile apps?

    VPAT ACRs are not for websites or mobile apps, but for ICT products and sometimes ICT related services. Software or game applications are examples of where a VPAT ACR is usually not called for.

    For non-product websites or mobile apps, conformance statements, which speak directly to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA or WCAG 2.1 Level AA certification, are what you’ll be required to provide.

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      The connections between the VPAT and WCAG

      Within the domain of VPAT compliance for ICT products and services, the VPAT and WCAG are intricately connected. All the four editions of the VPAT documents have subsets requiring the vendor to provide an account of how his or her ICT product or service conforms to WCAG. Here are the four editions of the VPAT:

      • The VPAT WCAG Edition: VPAT reports aligning to this edition of the VPAT provide an account about compliance to the WCAG guidelines 2.0 or 2.1. This VPAT edition focuses on a product or service’s conformance with WCAG 2.0 Level AA or WCAG 2.1 Level AA.
      • The VPAT 508 Edition: A VPAT report to account for an ICT product or service’s adherence to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act is guided by the Section 508 edition of the VPAT. The connection between this edition of the VPAT and WCAG is that, just as the WCAG Edition, it also contains a section for vendors of ICT products or services to indicate the compliance of their products or services to supporting WCAG Level AA.
      • The VPAT EU Edition: Just like the previous two editions of the VPAT, the VPAT EU edition has a section requiring declaration about conformance with WCAG 2.0 Level AA or WCAG 2.1 Level AA. Vendors use this edition of the VPAT to report compliance to the EN 301 549 Standard, which is required of the ICT products and services in the European Union market.
      • The VPAT INT Edition: This is the VPAT template that vendors who want to avail their ICT products or services to the international marketplace use when making their VPAT reports. This edition of the VPAT contains sections that you’ll find in all the other three editions of the VPAT. This means that it also has a section requiring vendors to indicate how their products or services support WCAG 2.0 Level AA or WCAG 2.1 Level AA.

      Based on the foregoing, it is clear that all editions of the VPAT have sections requiring a declaration about compliance with WCAG Level AA. The WCAG (2.0 AA or 2.1 AA) conformance level is used in most accessibility requirements around the world, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (the ADA).

      To meet WCAG (2.0 AA or 2.1 AA) conformance, the website should be usable and understandable for the majority of people with or without disabilities. This means that the meanings conveyed by the website and the functionalities available on the website should be the same. The requirements for conformance with this level of accessibility are as follows:

      • Color contrast to be in most instances at least 4:5:1.
      • Alternative (Alt) text or a similar solution to be used for images that covey meaning.
      • Navigation elements to be consistent throughout the website.
      • Form field to have accurate labels.
      • Status updates to be conveyed through a screen reader.
      • Headings to be used in a logical order.

      It is important to underscore that the WCAG standards are stable and reference-able. This means that they do not change after they are published. WCAG 2.0 was published on 11 December 2008; WCAG 2.1 on 5 June 2018; while finalization of WCAG 2.2 is scheduled by December 2022. Contact us for more updates on the VPAT and WCAG upgrades.

      All requirements or “success criteria” from WCAG 2.0 are included in WCAG 2.1. All the requirements in WCAG 2.0 and 2.1 will be included in WCAG 2.2.

      Why the intricate connection between the VPAT and WCAG?

      The VPAT templates are used to guide vendors of ICT products and services in declaring how their products or services conform to the various accessibility standards that exist. Whilst the WCAG standards apply to websites and mobile apps, all VPAT editions incorporate WCAG to provide vendors a stand-alone template to enable them conclusively report about the conformance of their products or services to the appropriate standards.

      Indeed, some of the products or services may be provided through websites or mobile apps, which requires the vendors to report about the accessibility of this aspect of the product or service. Businesses are increasingly taking their ICT products and services to their customers through web- and mobile-app-based marketing, which requires them to adhere to WCAG standards. That is why WCAG and the VPAT are quite inseparable and have strong connections.

      Need help with VPAT and WCAG testing and reporting?

      If you have any questions or need any help with VPAT and WCAG testing, please don’t hesitate to call us at (626) 486-2201 or send us a message by clicking here.