What is A VPAT Certificate And What Does That Mean for A Website’s Compliance?

  • 31.01.2022
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    Appreciating what a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) certificate is and what it means for a website’s compliance may require a glimpse into what a VPAT is and why VPAT compliance is critical for any entity. Having websites that are Section 508 compliant is a valuable verification that confirms the accessibility of your website. This is why securing VPAT compliance should be considered a priority by every business. 

    What is A VPAT?

    A VPAT is a self-disclosure document that helps organizations measure how ICT products, such as electronic content, software, hardware, and support documentation, meet the accessibility standards in accordance with Revised Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for IT accessibility. Section 508 obligates the federal government to procure, create, use, and maintain ICT that is accessible to people with disabilities, regardless of whether they work for the federal government or not.

    Initially intended for use by vendors to demonstrate their goods’ compliance with Section 508, VPAT has now been enhanced to incorporate the European EN 301 549 and Wen Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standards. VPAT is therefore available in four editions: VPAT 2.4 508, which deals with the requirements for reporting compliance with the Revised Section 508 Standards, i.e., the U.S. Federal accessibility standards; VPAT 2.4 EU, which deals with public procurement of ICT goods and services in Europe; VPAT 2.4 WCAG, which deals with W3C/WAI’s updated WCAG; and VPAT 2.4 INT, which incorporates all three.

    The VPAT edition that works best for you will be used to determine how accessible your products or services are to people with disabilities. That is why, whether your company is small, medium-sized, or large, VPAT compliance is something you cannot afford to put off. Your attitude towards VPAT compliance might determine whether your organization either explodes with more business or runs the risk of shutting people out of accessing your goods or services. You can also run the risk of getting sued for having a non-accessible website.

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      Why VPAT Compliance?

      VPAT compliance assists you in meeting the standards of ADA’s Section 508. The inverse might result in legal penalties that could cost your firm steep legal fees.

      VPAT compliance will also help your company avoid losing clients to competitors. This is because, across the globe, an increasing number of people are turning to products and services they believe are supplied by companies and organizations committed to positive social change.

      According to the Nielson Global Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility, 55% of respondents from various nations worldwide indicated that they were willing to spend extra money on socially responsible merchandise. This highlights another scenario where VPAT compliance is necessary, as certain buyers demand VPAT compliance before making a purchase. VPAT compliance helps them identify how accessible a product or service is to people with disabilities, as well as any potential flaws in the product or service.

      Other customers may lack the time and patience to conduct a thorough accessibility review of a product or service before purchasing it, and therefore rely on VPAT compliance to authenticate the VPAT accessibility of the product or service. A VPAT certificate becomes crucial for these consumers as well as for other people who want to know if a product or service has passed the VPAT accessibility requirements. Vendors are therefore increasingly working hard to influence their potential purchasers by using VPATs to construct their Accessibility Conformance Reports (ACR). Once they get their VPAT certification, they make them widely accessible so as to demonstrate their compliance.

      What is a VPAT Certificate?

      A VPAT certificate is a tool that conveys the accessibility confirmation of a given product or service. A VPAT example is the facts labels that are imprinted on the package of a product and are referred to by buyers who want information about the product’s ingredients. It helps to enhance the credibility of the product to prospective buyers.

      Aside from the providers of ICT products and services used by federal workers, organizations and individuals who seek to assure complete compliance with Section 508 also find VPAT certification beneficial. Previously, it was thought that VPAT certification was solely necessary for government bodies buying ICT products and services. That is no longer the case, as VPAT compliance is now mandatory even for individuals and organizations conducting business with federal government-funded organizations.

      Regardless of the nature of a business, therefore, interacting with entities that require the business to have VPAT certification will be more probable than not. A VPAT is therefore a very useful tool for every business, and every organization should consider adhering to the VPAT reporting guidelines so as to enhance their business opportunities as well as their commitment to accessibility for people with disabilities. Adapting to VPAT compliance, therefore, delivers multiple benefits to an entity, including enhanced credibility of the entity’s offerings.

      What Does a VPAT Certificate Mean for a Website’s Compliance?

      Websites effectively remove the boundaries that exist between individuals in the real world when it comes to communication and engagement. However, if websites are not correctly developed, they might create even more barriers between individuals. As a result, accessibility is highly essential in website development as it ensures that individuals are not excluded from others or that the products and services offered through websites are not accessible to some people. A VPAT certificate, therefore, serves the purpose of certifying the accessibility of a website.

      A VPAT certificate for a website identifies the site’s accessibility issues as they apply to WCAG, Section 508, or even the European accessibility criteria. For VPAT compliance, a website must demonstrate its accessibility to people with all types of disabilities, including with respect to multi-modal interaction, usability, SEO, device independence, fonts and their characteristics, assistive technologies, technologies and document formats, content (text and graphics), and so on.

      To obtain VPAT certification for a website, a vendor must complete the WCAG 2.0 report as well as Chapters 3 and 6 of the 2017 Section 508 Report. After completing the VPAT, the website vendor should make it available on the website to reduce the time required by their consumers to authenticate the website’s compliance with Section 508, European EN 301 549, and the WCAG 2.0 Report. The posting of the VPAT certificate on the website enables clients to finish their procurement procedures more quickly. Considering that websites are often changed, their VPAT certifications should be updated in tandem so as to reflect any changes that the updates would have caused to accessibility compliance.