What Is The Purpose of a VPAT?

  • 28.02.2022

*This article is not intended to provide legal tax advice. Please consult the IRS or your tax advisor for legal tax advice.*

In this article we’ll be walking through exactly what you need to do in order for your business to qualify for the $5,000 Tax Credit and also:

  • What it means for your website to be ADA compliant 
  • Risks of not having a compliant website 
  • How you can claim the credit before the next tax season 

If you are in a more serious situation and have already received a complaint letter for an ADA lawsuit, you can read more about the steps you need to take to protect your business clicking here.

Note: Think your business might qualify for the Tax Credit? Click here to get a Free Website Accessibility Test and see if your website has any errors. If so, having our experts quickly begin the remediation process gives you a chance to claim the credit. 

VPAT – A Household Term in The ICT Industry

A VPAT, or Voluntary Product Accessibility Template, is now a household term in the global ICT (Information and Communication Technology) industry. You may be new to the term and are asking, “What is a VPAT?” Don’t worry. In this article, we’ll answer that question and provide you with even more valuable insights about VPAT accessibility.

Due to the obvious importance of a VPAT in running a successful ICT-based business, you need to appreciate what the tool is. Even if you are not in the ICT sector, understanding VPATs is critical because VPATs are penetrating activities in many non-ICT domains due to ICT’s ubiquitous nature, as well as the ability to provide better, newer, and quicker ways of interacting, networking, seeking help, gaining access to information, and learning.

A VPAT is a vendor-generated statement that uses a pre-designed VPAT template to confirm a product’s or service’s compliance with the accessibility standards and guidelines sparked by Section 508 of the US Government’s Rehabilitation Act. Each VPAT ought to be product/service specific and accurately dated.

What Is Section 508 About?

Section 508 compels the federal government to acquire, utilize, and maintain ICT that is accessible to people with disabilities, whether or not they work for the federal government.

If you’ve never heard the terms “Section 508” or have wondered what that means, you’re not alone. However, you need to get onboard because these terms are now a matter of inescapable obligations to ensuring good quality living for people with disabilities.

Section 508 is a provision of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that has been strengthened and updated over time. The 2017 strengthening is the most recent, with a correction to the amendment made in 2018. The strengthening and the correction anchored the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by aligning federal spending toward promoting the ADA’s aspirations. Violations of Section 508 have landed both big and small businesses with huge penalties in court cases.

VPAT: The Purpose

  • Information on Conformance to the Section 508

The VPAT was designed to provide information regarding how a product or service conforms to the Section 508 Accessibility Standards developed by the U.S. Access Board for electronic and ICT products in a consistent way and format.

  • Helps Federal Officials and Procurement Officers Enforce Section 508

It is expected that vendors present a complete and correct VPAT, which should be produced by the company for each product or service contract. A VPAT is therefore vital in providing the federal government officials with relevant information on how a vendor’s products or services claim to conform to Section 508 VPAT accessibility standards.

This is important because it helps the officials to effectively compare vendor products and ascertain which ones meet more of the Section 508 requirements. The essence of this lies in the obligation that the officials have regarding purchasing products or services that are the most compliant while meeting the expected functional needs.

A VPAT also assists the procurement community in assessing the level of accessibility conformance for a product or service when they’re conducting the market research and proposal evaluation stages of procurement processes.

  • Helps to Avoid Lawsuits

Consider these big names and the anguish they endured, as well as the needless costs they incurred as a result of being in the news because of VPAT compliance violations! Netflix, Winn-Dixie, Blue Apron, Nike, Five Guys Burgers, Amazon, Beyonce Knowles (Park Entertainment), Burger King, Domino’s Pizza, Fox News Network, and many more are among such brands.

Netflix got into trouble in 2012. The National Association of the Deaf sued the firm over VPAT accessibility concerns over failing to provide adequate closed captioning on most of its “Watch Instantly” content. It was the only major online-only movie-watching service, so the disparity for viewers who were deaf was significant.

As if no lessons had been learned from the Netflix case, a Florida resident sued grocery store chain Winn-Dixie five years later for operating a website that was inaccessible to visually-impaired users using screen-reader technology. This case’s victory opened the way for many others, including those discussed previously in this article. A VPAT helps in the proactive detection and response to issues that may result in lawsuits being filed against your website.

  • Serves as an Accessibility Signature

The A VPAT is a metric for accessibility. It assists vendors in exploring the scope upon which their products comply with accessibility standards. A VPAT template can provide useful insights about a product’s accessibility to people with disabilities.

  • Improvement of Product/Service Development

After completing a VPAT template, the product or service owner, developer, or vendor can use the VPAT accessibility issues raised by the document to work out methods to embed accessibility into the goods or services within the product development cycle.

The assessment undertaken prior to completing the VPAT helps in the spotting of non-compliant issues in the product, allowing them to be corrected thereby avoiding legal consequences as well as socially induced backlash.

  • Helps Customers to Make Informed Purchase Decisions

A VPAT assists product and service customers in making informed decisions before purchasing a product or service. It especially assists them in understanding a product’s or service’s level of VPAT compliance, comparing the compliance of similar products or services, selecting the product or service that meets the accessibility standards as well as their functional and legal requirements, and planning for equally effective access when an accessible product is not available.

A buyer would simply take your VPAT certification at face value than go to the trouble of doing detailed research of the product or service to obtain the information they want before making a purchase decision. If you fail to give adequate information about your product’s or service’s VPAT compliance, such as the features that exist and how they support the standard, or features that are lacking and must be corrected, the purchaser will most likely place your VPAT at the bottom of the pile. In a nutshell, a VPAT offers precise, clear information about a product or service to assist in his or her pre-purchase assessment.

Contact us online or call us at (626) 486-2201 to know more about the purpose of a VPAT and VPAT compliance.