If you’re in the business of developing software, applications, and other products with online functionality, and want to comply with Section 508 requirements, there are a few things you should know about VPAT compliance.
In this guide, we outline everything you need to know about a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT), including how it applies to your business, why it matters, and how to fill it out.
Let’s dive right in and start with the basics.
What Is a VPAT?
The Americans with Disabilities Act was put in place to prevent discrimination against anyone living with a disability. Unfortunately, unclear guidelines related to the online and technology space have been an ongoing issue, making compliance difficult.
A VPAT is essentially a report that highlights which accessibility criteria a product meets, helping buyers make a more informed decision. It also shows a company’s commitment to keeping its customers informed, while creating a more inclusive world for all.
Who Needs a VPAT and Why?
A VPAT certification was once only necessary for organizations that received funding from the federal government. Today, this template is useful for any business that wants to enhance the credibility of its offerings.
VPATs are recommended if your organization deals with the following products and services:
Software and applications intended for public-facing agencies or for use by the public
Externally-hosted websites designed for the public
Interactive voice response programs
Digital devices such as smartphones and tablets
It should also be noted that completing a VPAT for accessibility purposes doesn’t mean your organization needs to be 100% Section 508 compliant – this isn’t always possible. Instead, you should view this document as a reflection of a product’s current level of compliance.
So why should you bother with VPATs?
For one, having VPATs for your ICT products ensures you are meeting legal accessibility requirements outlined by the ADA and other accessibility legislations. Being compliant means you don’t have to worry about costly lawsuits and brand damage.
The other reason is that many of today’s organizations only want to use products that they know are accessible to everyone. Having VPATs provides buyers with the information they need to compare your products to those of competitors.
A VPAT should only be completed by someone who is familiar with accessibility laws and standards for high accuracy.
A VPAT contains template guidelines and instructions. Be sure to check for any guidelines that are specific to your type of organization. This could include using specific terminology.
Along with indicating whether a product meets a particular accessibility requirement, it’s also important to provide a description that backs this claim. Be detailed, but to the point.
If there are any criteria that your product does not meet, be honest and outline the steps your organization is taking to rectify any shortfalls where possible.
If product features or functionality change, it’s important to update your VPAT and include a revised evaluation date.
Consider posting your completed VPAT on your website, while also ensuring the document is accessible to online users.
Remove any VPAT document instructions from the template before submitting it.
If accessibility and legal compliance are important to your organization, VPATs make a lot of sense. What’s more, it can help your ICT products and services stand out – clients will always value honesty and transparency.
And if you don’t have enough accessibility knowledge to complete a VPAT yourself, there are experts available to assist you with this process.
An incomplete or inaccurate VPAT can cost your business valuable vendor partnerships. Federal and government buyers use VPATs to compare product and service options. If your organization cannot produce VPATs, you may not meet vendor proposal requirements.
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