What is a VPAT and What Kind of Information is in a VPAT Report?

  • 4.07.2022
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    What is a VPAT?

    A VPAT, or Voluntary Product Accessibility Template, is a generic template that enables businesses or organizations to provide a thorough analysis of their accessibility standards as defined by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.

    The VPAT document concisely outlines the key accessibility requirements for electronic and information technology (EIT) products and services and provides a structure for EIT product or service developers or vendors to outline the level of compliance the products or services conform to, as well as the relevant explanatory notes.

    VPATs make it easier for federal government buyers and contracting officials, as well as private organizations where accessibility and, by extension, Section 508 compliance are a priority, to make preliminary assessments on EIT products and service offerings.

    A VPAT report

    When you finish filling out the VPAT document with information about each of your EIT products and services, you will have a VPAT report for the product or service. You will come across the term “Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR)” as you interact with the various terms used in the VPAT accessibility discourse.

    The VPAT document, which, as previously stated, is a generic document template, provides guidance when completing the ACR for an EIT product or service. Many people use the term VPAT to refer to both the trademarked generic template and the VPAT they completed to describe the accessibility of their EIT product or service. This frequently leads to misunderstandings.

    A better approach would be to refer to the generic VPAT document as VPAT, and the final report or document generated using guidance from the generic VPAT document as VPAT report or ACR.

    Each EIT product or service has its own ACR. It gives a brief description of how the product or service fully or partially meets the VPAT accessibility requirements outlined in the underlying accessibility standards. It also describes the evaluation methods used by the EIT product or service provider to validate conformance to the Revised 508 Standards, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), or the European Union guidelines EN 301-549.

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      Benefits of VPAT accessibility

      If you make VPAT accessibility a standard in your business, it will help you review digital materials and technologies because of the following:

      • Provides you with a standard format to help you determine and compare the accessibility of various EIT products and services during bidding processes.
      • Because reviewing an EIT product or service’s VPAT report can help identify questions to ask a developer or vendor to ensure that procurement and contracting decisions are based on the best information available, it aids in ordering dialogue about accessibility with developers and vendors.
      • Assists in documenting accessibility-related claims from developers and vendors, fostering accountability because the information in a VPAT document can be used to inform efforts to resolve any identified issues to rely on when filing claims.
      • Increases accessibility standards awareness, which aids in the promotion of best practices in fostering accessibility among EIT product and service developers and users.

      The kind of information you will find in a VPAT report 

      If you intend to rely on a VPAT as your source of information about the accessibility of an EIT product or service, keep the following in mind:

      • The fact that a developer or vendor of an EIT product or service provides you with a VPAT report does not guarantee that the product or service to which the VPAT report pertains complies with the accessibility standards established for the product or service.
      • The expertise of the person completing the VPAT limits its quality. Some companies may have excellent accessibility experts on their staff, which allows them to produce high-quality VPAT reports. Those who do not have this advantage frequently struggle to develop high-quality VPATs. They frequently designate individuals who lack the knowledge and skills required to produce accurate VPATs. This could have a negative impact on the quality of their VPATs and, as a result, their business. As a result, such businesses are advised to seek assistance from accessibility experts such as ADA Compliance Pros in order to accurately complete their VPATs.
      • When you receive a VPAT report, make sure it matches the EIT product or service you’re thinking about purchasing. This is due to the fact that different versions of the same EIT product or service can have significant differences. Check the product or service’s release date to ensure it matches the date on the VPAT you provided for the product or service.
      • Combine your review of the VPAT report with other strategies and tools to ensure you’re acquiring accessible EIT products and services. The usability test, which involves subjecting the product or service to the unique access needs you desire to deal with the product or service, is a viable complementary strategy to the VPAT accessibility review. This will provide you with a more complete picture of the product’s or service’s accessibility.

      Here is the kind of information you can expect in the generic VPAT for guidance toward developing a VPAT report:

      • Summary of the details of the VPAT report.
      • The relevant standards and/or guidelines.
      • ACR tables.
      • Vendor information and instructions for completing the VPAT (this may be omitted in some VPATs).

      The VPAT summary will require information about the general details of the EIT product or service, as well as the VPAT report. This includes the following:

      • The VPAT report title.
      • The VPAT heading information.
      • Name of the EIT product/service and the version.
      • VPAT report date.
      • EIT product/service description.
      • Contact information.
      • Notes
      • Evaluation methods used.
      • Applicable standards and/or guidelines.
      • Terms
      • ACR tables for each standard and/or guideline.
      • Additional details that vendors may opt to provide.

      The applicable standards and/or guidelines information highlights the standards and/or guidelines that were used to develop the VPAT report. This relates to:

      • Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0/2.1.
      • The Revised Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.
      • European Union’s accessibility requirements: EN 301 549. 

      Some vendors also include the WCAG levels of conformance used during product development. The conformance levels are A, AA, and AAA.

      The success criteria in the VPAT report’s ACR tables are organized around the four WCAG principles: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. The tables are divided into three columns: information about the success criteria, conformance level (supports, partially supports, does not support, and not applicable), and remarks and explanations.

      The ACR tables provide information to answer accessibility conformance in relation to Revised Section 508, specifically software and support documentation (Chapters 5 and 6); EN 301, 549 Standard issues – Web (Chapter 9), non-web (Chapter 10), software (Chapter 11), documentation and support services (Chapter 12); and selected levels of WCAG 2.x guidelines.

      Need more about a VPAT report and the information it contains?

      A VPAT example is the best way to gain insight into a VPAT report and the information contained within it.

      If you need trusted professionals to help you with your VPAT, ADA Compliance Pros are ready to help. You can access us by clicking this link or calling (626) 486-2201 now.