VPAT ( Voluntary Product Accessibility Template )is a self-evaluation measure used by businesses to achieve the objectives of digital accessibility.
Over one-fourth of the US population is disabled, and no business wants to miss the possibility of lead generation from this segment of the target audience.
Therefore it is important to attain digital accessibility with a VPAT. With the increasing number of digital accessibility lawsuits, the significance of VPAT is apparent.
The US government functions upon a variety of civil rights laws and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act is one such measure which mandates the use of a VPAT. According to the law, federal agencies must conduct a preliminary assessment of the vendors of websites, hardware, software or any electronic document based on the accessibility law. They must choose vendors with a valid VPAT document.
VPAT accessibility is great for identifying potential deficiencies in information and communication technology products. Not just for the federal level client base, but in general evaluating the compliance level is essential to protect youagainst legal repercussions.
Creating a VPAT
VPAT is a free to use template that can be used to assess Section 508 compliance. In addition to this, the accessibility standards and guidelines of WCAG (a framework to ensure compliance with ADA) can also be applied using VPAT.
As mentioned above, if an organization is selling hardware or software to the federal government, a VPAT is mandatory for them. The rest of the businesses can also use this self-evaluation measure to serve their client base better. Further, the WCAG edition of the VPAT helps you reduce the risk of ADA violation lawsuits.
Steps To Create A VPAT:
- Download the VPAT:It can be found on the official website of the Information and Technology Industry council.
- Complete the ACR:ACR (Accessibility conformance report) requires basic information such as company name, name of the product, description of the product, evaluation methods and reporting date. ITI website has training videos to learn how to complete ACR.
- VPAT tables: The tables have three different columns, i.e. criteria, conformance level, and remarks. Criteria determine the level of conformance you want to report for your offered products. It includes various operability and accessibility frameworks for web content, electronic document, software and authoring tools.
WCAG standards have level A, AA and AAA conformance levels to the success criteria. You need to define the level of conformance of your products and offerings and any remarks or explanations regarding the conformance.
- Review the ACR: Before you finish generating the VPAT scoring make sure to run some crucial checks. For instance, using the acceptable/current version of VPAT, completed information on the top of ACR, completed success criteria remarks etc.
- Remediation: The whole point of a VPAT is to generate an accessible ACR. If you are not satisfied with the level of conformance to the desired success criteria, seek help from the experts and remediate to make the product legally compliant and accessible to everyone.
How to fill out the VPAT correctly?
Experts highly recommend double-checking the ACR to ensure the utmost level of integrity in filling out a VPAT. If the organizational administration is unable to understand the accessibility success criteria or the conformance levels, it is best to run an accessibility audit first.
Hire third party experts to manually check the products and offerings and find potential deficiencies. There is a hype about the usefulness of a VPAT testing tool, however, you must be aware of the fact that no software can substitute human intervention.
Automated scans are only 30% accurate. Therefore, manual audits by accessibility specialists are highly recommended to fill out a VPAT correctly. If your in-house team lacks knowledge of accessibility standards, finding a third party specialist is indeed worth it. They can find areas for improvement and remediation to ensure you have an accessible and legally compliant website.