Why it is Best for a Third Party Auditor To Fill Out Your VPAT Template?

  • 19.01.2023
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    What is a VPAT template?

    A VPAT template is a document that evaluates how accessible a particular information and communication technology (ICT) product or service is according to the recognized accessibility standards and guidelines, namely, Section 508 Standards, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), and the European Union’s EN 301 549 accessibility standards for publicly procurable ICT products and services.

    The self-disclosing template is produced by the manufacturer or vendor of an ICT product or service and details each aspect of the accessibility requirements of the market where the product or service is to be offered for public procurement, including how the product or service supports each of the accessibility criteria in the relevant edition of the VPAT.

    You can get an official, freeVPAT form in Microsoft Word or PDF format from the website of the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI). ITI hosts all four editions of the VPAT template: the Section 508 VPAT, the WCAG 2.0 or 2.1 VPAT, the EU’s EN 301 549 VPAT, and the International (INT) VPAT. You should find out what version of the VPAT buyers of your products or services accept.

    The Section 508 VPAT serves as the foundation for the federal accessibility standard in the United States and is used to document compliance levels based on the accessibility requirements for ICT procurable by federal agencies.The WCAG VPAT is based on the W3C/WAI’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

    The EU’s EN 301 549 VPAT is used to document compliance with the accessibility requirements suitable for public procurement of ICT products and services in Europe, while the INT VPAT incorporates all three of the above standards.

    Buyers and the VPAT template

    More than ever before, buyers of ICT products and services are scrutinizing VPAT forms before making a purchase. In 2023, VPAT accessibility will no longer be a an optionof public procurement entities.

    Contrary to how things were in 2022, when some buyers, such as the federal agencies and large corporations and learning institutions, required duly completed VPAT documents before making a purchase of ICT products and services, private entities are increasingly asking for VPAT accessibility conformance reports (ACRs) before deciding to procure ICT products and services. That is because many small and large organizations are appreciating the value of making ICT products and services accessible to everyone.

    Accuratelyfilled-out VPAT forms help buyers of ICT products and services to determine how accessible the products or services are and where potential accessibility deficiencies exist. On the other hand, many firms have discovered that the process of completing a VPAT document, particularly the VPAT audit portion of the VPAT compliance process, fosters increased product and service quality.

    Businesses that pursue VPAT compliance have also reported deepened sales volumeof their products and services, especially in the disability market, as well as an allied increase in profits.

    But having a bad VPAT ACR has also heralded bad experiences for some businesses. Some have ended up losing a lot of money in accessibility-based lawsuits as well as litigation due to providing misleading information to the public.

    So when creating your VPAT ACR, keep in mind that it could be reviewedby people who want to buy your products or services or by those who are out to pin you down for offering products and services that are discriminatory to the public.

    A quality VPAT audit, therefore, helps your business reap the benefits of VPAT accessibility. The opposite is true for a VPAT audit that is not professionally executed so as to provide you credible data and information to use in completing your VPAT template.

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      What makes a quality VPAT audit?

      Apart from selecting the correct edition of the VPAT, carrying out the VPAT audit and careful completion of the VPAT document are perhaps the aspects of VPAT accessibility on which most successful businesses place a lot of emphasis. 

      If you get it wrong at the VPAT audit stage, your completed VPAT form will be fraudulent. This could injure the reputation and credibility of your business, besides enlisting you in unnecessary lawsuits.

      Just as the voluntary product accessibility template (VPAT) is not mandatory for you to complete for your ICT products and services, when you decide to pursue VPAT compliance, you’ll be at liberty to decide on whom to ask to undertake the VPAT documentation for you.

      The bottom line is that a quality VPAT audit requires people who have expertise in accessibility, understand the accessibility legal and policy framework, and appreciate the accessibility domain associated with your ICT product or service. You can opt for in-house creation of VPATs for your products or services or hire a trusted third-party agency.

      Advantages and disadvantages of in-house VPAT completion

      Having an in-house team develop your VPAT reports is great to some extent, but according to reports from businesses that have taken that route, many buyers see it as lacking credibility and objectivity.

      The advantage of having an in-house team perform VPAT certification for a product or service is having a team that aptly understands the product or service domain, as well as reduced VPAT compliance costs.

      According to statistics relating to businesses that are winning big business with lucrative buyers like the federal agencies and large corporations, VPAT certification undertaken internally can hardly outperform that undertaken by VPAT accessibility third parties in terms of convincing buyers and procurement teams to choose a product or service. Some procurement departments will also insist it be completed by a third party auditor.

      That is why many small and large businesses are increasingly hiring third-party agencies for their VPAT compliance requirements.

      Advantages and disadvantages of third-party VPAT completion

      Many firms are competing for clients in your business domain. With the VPAT having established itself as a vital procurement requirement, if well written, it can be a compelling competitive differentiator for your business.

      That is because well-written VPAT ACRs show potential buyers of an ICT product or service that the product or service vendors or manufacturers take time to actively evaluate and build accessibility into them.

      VPATs are technically very complex documents. They need knowledge and accessibility work experience to collect and fill out the necessary data.Because internal teams may already be preoccupied with other assignments related to the core business of the firm, they often don’t give VPAT accessibility the steadfast focus that a third-party entity would.

      A third party will not only lend the requisite knowledge needed for carrying out a proper VPAT audit of the products or services and reporting on the products’ or services’ accessibility, but will also lend vital credibility to the VPAT report developed.

      You don’t want to create a VPAT report that will be placed at the bottom of the pile because of the belief that exists regarding the non-objectivity and lack of credibility associated with VPATs developed in-house.

      Therefore, while it is not a must to procure the services of a third party to fill out your VPAT template, it is the most advisable thing to do. You do not want your product or service to start off its procurement journey in a disadvantaged position because of the negative connotation associated with in-house-created VPAT reports.

      We can help you with all your VPAT compliance needs.

      We can help you learn about and develop a VPAT document and how to get a VPAT report that convincingly shows the accessibility of your ICT product or service. If you decide to have your in-house team do your VPAT certification, you could learn how to fill out your VPAT template from the VPAT example we have provided.

      If you decide to hire a third party to work together with your in-house team or to help you with your VPAT compliance needs, our VPAT audit and testing will be great for you. They have earned leading businesses and organizations VPAT certifications and compliance that are both respected and have enhanced their business growth.

      You can start the process of working with our dedicated team by giving us a call at (626) 486-2201 or by filling out this simple contact form, and we’ll get you an experienced consultant on the books to work with you. We will provide you with free consultations!

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