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February 3, 2022

What Is A VPAT (Voluntary Product Accessibility Template) Document           

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Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act mandates that the ICT (Information and Communication Technology) products and offerings should be accessible to people with disabilities. VPAT or Voluntary Product Accessibility Template is a document that is used to declare conformance to the accessibility guidelines mentioned in Section 508. The document is used by ICT vendors to outline their accessibility standards. The VPAT can be used to give remarks about the level of compliance attained. Using the voluntary declaration of the conformance levels, vendors are able to put themselves in a position where their business partners can make informed decisions about their products and offerings. If accessibility is a key concern for the success of your business or your vendors, then establishing the VPAT accessibility declaration is useful.

To put it simply, VPAT compliance is crucial for the success of a business that deals in ICT offerings. Section 508 mandates the usage of accessible offerings by the federal workers, it doesn’t impose the compliance explicitly on the private sector businesses. Though, it is useful to fill up the VPAT form to showcase your accessibility for the customers or vendors who are indirectly connected to the federal government. By ignoring the significance of a VPAT you might be losing out on the opportunity to be an accountable business partner. Before your vendors assess you and reject you for non-compliance to section 508, let’s discuss what is a VPAT and how to get one.

How to get your VPAT?

Anyone can download the template which is made available by the Information Technology Industry Council. One can refer to a VPAT example and fill out one for themselves. However, it is suggested to hire third party audit specialists to fill out the template with the utmost proficiency and accuracy. The latest version of a VPAT has incorporated the standards suggested by WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). Thus, filling out the VPAT with the help of an in-house team requires sufficient knowledge of the latest updates of WCAG. In case your team lacks domain knowledge, hiring third party audit experts is the best option. You must also verify the content of what you are filling out in the template and without an accurate audit on your digital content, that is next to impossible without trained assistance.  Here is what a trained accessibility expert can bring to the table:

  • Third party audit experts are equipped with the latest domain knowledge
  • They have the capacity to test your offerings based on both Section 508 and WCAG standards
  • They can conduct a live, manual audit on your digital properties to verify the level of accuracy that will be entered in your VPAT
  • They have years of expertise and can quickly fill up the VPAT for you
  • They are well-versed with the terminology and can provide the most honest review
  • They make sure that the template is not incomplete or inaccurate

Why exercise transparency in VPAT?

One has to be accurate and totally honest while generating the Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR). The VPAT is used by your vendors or clients to access your offerings. Based on the information provided in the report, one can decide whether or not to conduct business with you. In case of inaccurate information, the risk of getting sued increases.

Complete yet concise information is required to leave a good first impression on your purchasers. Section 508 is one of the disability laws, thus it is crucial to steer clear of erroneous representation of legal principles. For more guidance on accurate representation of accessibility levels, you should talk to audit experts. If interested in conducting a thorough evaluation and modelling an accurate and honest VPAT report for your business website, visit the link given below. 

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