What Happens if You Make Public an Inaccurate VPAT ACR?

  • 7.10.2022
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    What is a VPAT ACR?

    Along with “VPAT,” the term “ACR” is frequently used in accessibility conversations. What distinguishes an ACR from a VPAT then? VPAT is an acronym for Voluntary Product Accessibility Template, while ACR is an acronym for Accessibility Conformance Report.

    An ACR, which is also frequently referred to as a VPAT ACR, is a VPAT report that has been filled out with data and information about the accessibility of an ICT product. On the other hand, VPAT is a standardized document that explains how information and communication technology (ICT) products such as software, hardware, electronic content, and support documentation conform to the Revised Section 508 Standards for information technology (IT) accessibility.

    While “VPAT” refers to the prototype document created in 2001 by the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) in collaboration with the General Services Administration of the United States federal government to address the general issue of matching ICT product features to Section 508 accessibility requirements, “VPAT ACR” refers to the filled-out VPAT.

    The VPAT ACR is the cornerstone of VPAT accessibility because it enables federal agency contracting officials and federal government buyers to undertake market research and evaluate bids for the delivery of ICT products to them, as well as assess ICT products for accessibility.

    What is VPAT accessibility?

    The term “VPAT accessibility” pertains to the accurate and consistent preparation of accessibility conformance reports for ICT products so that federal agency contracting officials and federal government buyers can appropriately assess the products for accessibility when conducting market research and evaluating bids for the supply of ICT products to them. It enables both adherence to Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act and improved delivery of the accessibility promise to people with disabilities.

    It is impossible to achieve VPAT accessibility without having properly and accurately completed VPATs for ICT products. Although completing a VPAT is a voluntary initiative on the part of vendors of ICT products, doing so incorrectly exposes the entire purpose of Section 508 to ridicule and robs consumers of the confidence they need to enforce Section 508 requirements for equal access to ICT products and services for people with disabilities. This profoundly perpetuates discrimination against people with disabilities contrary to the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

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      Preparation of an accessibility conformance report

      Selecting the VPAT that fits with the applicable VPAT accessibility standard is the first step in creating an accurate accessibility conformance report. The following are the current VPAT templates, which have been designed to align with the different VPAT accessibility standards:

      • VPAT WCAG(Web Content Accessibility Guidelines): WCAG 2.1 or ISO/IEC 40500.
      • VPAT 508: Revised Section 508 Standards.
      • VPAT EU: EN 301 509
      • VPAT INT: Incorporates all the three standards above.

      You’ll notice that although WCAG 2.1 is the focus of the preceding sentence’s discussion of the VPAT WCAG standard, WCAG 2.0 is more in line with legal and regulatory standards in the United States. Because several requests for proposals within the U.S. market typically seek information about compliance with WCAG 2.1, it is advised that you analyze your products against WCAG 2.1 success criteria when producing the VPAT ACR for products that align to the VPAT WCAG standard.

      For ICT products intended for the U.S. market, VPAT ACRs should be prepared in accordance with the VPAT 508 standard. This VPAT standard’s provisions are consistent with the revised Section 508 standards.

      The VPAT standard that complies with the accessibility criteria of the European Union is known as VPAT EU. Follow the VPAT aligned to EN 301 549, the European Union’s accessibility regulations, while performing VPAT assessments to facilitate in the creation of VPAT ACRs for use in public procurement of ICT products and services in Europe.

      However, it is advised you align with VPAT INT, which integrates VPAT WCAG, VPAT 508, and VPAT EU, if your ICT products have an international market scope and you wish to participate in international procurement processes.

      Consequences of making public an inaccurate VPAT ACR

      As earlier noted, creating a VPAT ACR for your ICT products is an absolutely voluntary affair. Nobody forces you to create one, but you stand to lose big business by not creating one for each of your ICT products. That is because, with an accurate VPAT ACR, you exclude your ICT products and services from being procured by federal agencies and federal government buyers.

      Potential customers may conclude that you are not committed to ensuring accessibility of your ICT products and services for people with disabilities if you fail to develop VPAT ACRs for them. This could adversely impact the penetration of your products or services, which will have a bearing on your revenues and profits.

      While having an accurate VPAT ACR provides many advantages for your business, some vendors may give inaccurate data in an effort to persuade federal agencies and federal government buyers to purchase their products and services. Making a VPAT ACR public with mistakes or oversights can get you and your business into problems in the following ways:

      • Cost you a successful bid for federal agency or federal government business

      An incorrect or inaccurate VPAT ACR could prevent you from submitting a winning bid because it won’t adhere to the specifications mentioned in the requests for proposals for the delivery of goods and services. Make sure your VPAT ACR is filled out completely and accurately to prevent this. 

      It is, therefore, advisable that before making the VPAT ACR public, double-check each contribution to make sure it accurately reflects the current condition of your ICT product or service. It is usually advisable to use the help of an outside professional, such as ADA Compliance Pros.

      • Lawsuits and fines

      If you are given a contract and your product does not match the requirements specified in your VPAT ACR, it could expose your business to legal action and penalties. That is because the inaccuracies in the accessibility conformance report may be construed as fraudulent advertising or labeling for which huge fines and responsibilities are placed on the guilty.

      According to 49 U.S.C. 46507 (1), it is illegal to intentionally and deliberately disseminate false information, as well as to do so with reckless disregard for others’ safety while knowing that the information being conveyed is false. Selling or distributing a product that is falsely described or mislabeled as to its composition, nature, place of origin, or use entails significant legal and criminal liability.

      • Risk to business reputation

      Publishing an incomplete or inaccurate VPAT ACR dents the reputation of your business among buyers of products as well as your peers. A good reputation is important for any business because it indicates trustworthiness and honesty. Customers are often willing to pay more when they do business with companies that have built up strong reputations, which in turn helps recruit great staff who remain devoted.

      Need help with VPAT accessibility and VPAT compliance?

      We welcome your online or phone inquiries if you require assistance with VPAT accessibility or VPAT compliance. Our number is (626) 486-2201. Anytime you need assistance, our team is here to help!