What Constitutes a Good VPAT ACR?

  • 10.11.2022
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    What is a VPAT?

    VPAT, which is an acronym for Voluntary Product Accessibility Template, is a prototype document for use by manufacturers and vendors of electronic information technology (EIT) products and services to self-generate information on how their EIT products or services adhere to the recognized accessibility criteria.

    The Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) collaborated with the General Services Administration (GSA) to develop the VPAT form to further the accessibility of EIT products and services. For example, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), the Revised Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the European Union’s EN 301 459 accessibility standard all guarantee standardized documentation supporting the technical and functional performance requirements for accessibility. 

    The criteria and technical requirements for accessibility based on the standard or guideline are included in each of the four accessibility VPAT forms that ITI has created. The VPAT Section 508 contains the criteria and technical specifications for conformity with the Revised Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act, and the VPAT EU contains criteria and technical specifications for accessibility in accordance with the EU’s EN 301 459 standard. The VPAT WCAG anchors the criteria and technical specifications for accessibility based on WCAG 2.0 or 2.1.

    The VPAT International (INT), which is used to document the accessibility of EIT products and services intended for the worldwide market, contains the accessibility criteria and technical specifications in the other three editions of the VPAT form.

    Filling out a VPAT form  

    The VPAT form has two sections: the compliance template and instructions on how to utilize the form. You must do an in-depth and honest analysis of the EIT product or service for which you wish to create a VPAT report before completing the VPAT form.

    Using one of the four conformance levels—supports, partially supports, does not support, or not applicable—you will be prompted by the VPAT form’s basic framework to evaluate the compliance to specific accessibility rules that are pertinent to your EIT product or service. For creating effective VPAT accessibility conformance reports (ACRs) for your EIT products or services, consider the following recommended practices:

    • Ensure that the individual filling out the VPAT ACR is familiar with the existing accessibility standards as well as the VPAT edition to be completed. If you’re not sure about the individual’s familiarity with the foregoing issues, get help from a third-party accessibility professional who can help you.

    • Provide detailed information about what your EIT product or service can and cannot do. That is because the accessibility criteria provided in the VPAT editions are not assessments toward either passing or failing. 

    • Ensure that the VPAT ACR you develop is itself accessible.

    • Conduct a thorough VPAT audit before creating your VPAT ACR, and whenever you have a product update, be sure to update your VPAT and include the date of revision and version of the product being evaluated.

    Once completed, the VPAT report becomes an accessibility conformance report (ACR), which should only include the completed template.

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      Developing your VPAT ACR

      For agencies and organizations that do business with the federal government and are required to fill out VPAT forms, it is essential to have a long-term strategy for comprehensive and ongoing accessibility monitoring and remediation to be assured of creating good VPAT ACRs that guarantee you receive the much-needed federal assistance. Here are some pointers to get you started on the right track of creating a good VPAT ACR:

      • Understand the applicability of your VPAT ACR. This involves an evaluation of the functionality of your EIT product or service, determining the standards that are applicable, and being conscious of the hardware, software, support documentation, and other services related to the product or service.
      • Standardize the VPAT ACR creation process. That involves establishing a defined internal process and procedures to be responsible for the preparation of VPAT ACRs for your EIT products or services.
      • Testing all the necessary requirements. This might involve adopting tried-and-true VPAT audit methodologies, using automated, manual, and assistive technology validation, as well as case testing by people with disabilities. It might also involve using best practices in the market to test your EIT product or service against the numerous accessibility standards already in place.
      • Ensuring quality. This involves training the people who prepare your VPAT ACRs and/or hiring knowledgeable third-party accessibility consultants; keeping your VPAT ACRs up to date; and implementing any customer feedback that you receive regarding areas for improvement.

      What makes a VPAT ACR good?

      It is the responsibility of the manufacturer or vendor of an EIT product or service to develop a good VPAT ACR. A good VPAT ACR easily educates people about an EIT product’s or service’s accessibility features as well as its limitations for users with disabilities. That helps in the informed decision-making that is necessary for the purchase of the product or service. Here are some of the factors that make a good VPAT ACR:

      1. Underpinned by the correct accessibility VPAT

      2. A good VPAT ACR is one whose authors determine the correct accessibility standards and guidelines to be included in the report. A VPAT ACR cannot be good if it relies on accessibility criteria and technical specifications that are not relevant to the market for which the product or service is intended.

      3. Accessibility

      4. A good VPAT ACR must be accessible even if it is replicated in different delivery formats such as HTML or PDF.

      5. Irreducible minimums

      6. A good VPAT ACR must contain the report title, VPAT heading information, name of the product or version of the product, product description, date of report publication, contact information, notes about 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 conformance level column.

      7. Posting

      8. A good VPAT ACR should have the “Essential Requirements and Best Practices for Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Vendors” section removed from the template when being published in its final form.

      Need help with creating a good VPAT ACR?

      You can learn about developing a good VPAT ACR by reviewing a VPAT ACR example. If you would like more information about good VPAT ACRs or need a third-party professional to help you fill out your VPAT, call (626) 486-2201 to discuss your issue with one of our dedicated accessibility experts.