How to Collaborate with an Accessibility Third Party to Secure a VPAT
What is a VPAT?
The term “VPAT” stands for “Voluntary Product Accessibility Template,” which is an evaluation tool created to assist suppliers of electronic and information technology (EIT) products and services in determining how closely their products and services adhere to each accessibility standard currently in effect.
VPATs and Section 508
VPATs were initially created to assist businesses in proving that their products or services complied with Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act when bidding on federal government contracts, but they are now a standard way to demonstrate digital accessibility in both the public and private sectors.
Federal organizations must comply with Section 508 of the law, which mandates that their information and communication technology (ICT) is accessible to everyone, including those with disabilities. Software, hardware, electronic material, and websites are some of the technologies that are covered by the law.
In order to comply with the law, federal agencies must take Section 508 into account while acquiring EIT/ICT products and services. Manufacturers and vendors of these products and services use the VPAT to create VPAT reports, also known as Accessibility Conformance Reports (ACRs), which serve as proof that their products and services adhere to the particular accessibility requirements listed in Section 508.
VPAT ACRs as security for buying the most accessible products/services
Manufacturers and vendors of digital offerings are increasingly commonly requested to give documentation of the accessibility of their products, typically in the form of a VPAT ACR.
To improve accessibility, contracting officials and procurement teams use VPAT ACRs as the VPAT security to ensure the purchase of EIT products and services with the greatest accessibility features.
The use of VPAT reports enables producers and suppliers of EIT products and services to assess the accessibility of their products and services and document how well they adhere to applicable accessibility standards. Additionally, the reports act as proof of compliance with the law on the part of contracting officials and procurement teams when buying EIT products and services.
VPAT templates are in four versions.
The VPAT template was initially created to document accessibility in accordance with Section 508, but it has now become the industry standard for promoting and reporting accessibility.
Four VPAT editions have been created as a result, enabling producers and suppliers of EIT/ICT products and services to create ACRs that are specific to their target markets and contract requirements.
The editions are: Section 508 VPAT 2.4 that anchors the Revised Section 508 standards, which are the U.S. Federal accessibility standard; VPAT 2.4 EU that anchors the EN 301 549 accessibility requirements for public procurement of ICT products and services in Europe; VPAT 2.4 Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 that anchors the WCAG; and VPAT 2.4 International (INT) that incorporates all three of the aforementioned standards.
Completing your VPAT
As a result of the accessibility standards specified, VPATs are technically complex documents that call for factual information. If you don’t have access to someone with the vast accessibility domain knowledge required to generate an impenetrable VPAT, you risk exposing yourself by submitting a VPAT that isn’t completed appropriately.
If your business’s products or services have inaccurately filled out VPATs, you could lose business, ruin your reputation, or even be sued. You risk not just legal implications but also the ensuing financial consequences if you do not accurately and properly disclose how accessible your EIT products and services are. It is worth mentioning that more than 3,000 digital accessibility claims are made each year.
Because of this, organizations that are successful in obtaining Section 508 compliance certification use impartial third parties with knowledge and experience in digital accessibility to complete their VPATs. A third-party agency not only has the necessary expertise for evaluating and reporting on accessibility, but it also gives the final VPAT report legitimacy.
Collaborating with a third-party entity to complete your VPAT
While some businesses might have misgivings about completing a VPAT for their products or services, the reality is that doing so is essential regardless of whether Section 508, EN 301 549, or WCAG apply. It benefits businesses since the more VPATs they complete for their products or services, the more accessibility needs they uncover that they are not addressing. This helps them to continuously improve the quality of their products or services.
The steps you can take to begin collaborating with a third-party organization on finishing your VPAT are as follows:
- Check out the VPAT materials provided by independent digital accessibility professionals like ADA Compliance Pros to learn more about their capabilities in the VPAT security space.
- Get in touch with the third-party entity to collaborate with based on their experience and knowledge of VPAT accessibility.
- Require thorough testing and analysis of your products and services from the third party in addition to just having them complete your VPAT and send the VPAT report.
- Ensure the entity carries out a critical path analysis to comprehend and properly test the user flows of your product or service.
- Work with the third-party entity to assist your team in fixing the accessibility barriers established by the VPAT audit.
- Establish an ongoing connection with the third party so they can continue to monitor the accessibility scenario and keep you informed of any changes to the accessibility standards. This helps you stay on top of accessibility.
- Work collaboratively with the third party to deliver a VPAT ACR that is impartial, objective, and fully accessible.
Get more information or help with VPAT security.
Call us at your earliest convenience at (626) 486-2201 to arrange a consultation if you require help with VPAT security or any other type of digital accessibility. Free advice is always available!