Changing societal attitudes toward people with disabilities
Increasingly more people and businesses are joining hands to ward-off the deep-seated societal regardfor people with disabilities as problems to be fixed. The turnaround was catapulted by the 1998Section 508 amendment of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities.
To address the issue of matching EIT product features to the accessibility requirements with a checklist, the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) worked in partnership with the U.S. government’s central procurement office, the General Services Administration (GSA) to develop a voluntary product accessibility template (VPAT).
What is a VPAT?
A VPAT is a prototype document that is used to explain how an EIT product or service such as software, hardware, electronic content, of support documentation conform to the Revised Section 508 Standards for EIT accessibility. The template helps Federal agency contracting officials and government buyers to assess EIT for accessibility when doing market research and evaluation bid proposals for the supply of EIT products and services.
Essentially, a VPAT includes instructions on accessibility best practices, as well as a series of questions about the product or services as their accessibility. It can cover anything that might be considered EIT, including mobile phones, desktops, websites, apps, cloud storage, and in-flight entertainment, among others.
In response to the ever-dynamic EIT markets, ITI has developed four versions of the VPAT: VPAT 508 for businesses that wish to contract with the U.S. Federal government; VPAT European Union (EU), which is similar to the Section 508 VPAT, but incorporates the EU accessibility standard: EN 301 549, VPAT Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which is used to test and document the accessibility of web content; and the VPAT international (INT), which incorporates all the other three types of VPATs and is when businesses that want their EIT products and services to sell globally use to document their accessibility.
All VPAT versions are created, maintained, and updated by the ITI, which means that they are the same for each category of relevant market. This is helpful if you need evidence of VPAT accessibility for a contract bid, business assessment, or for legal purposes, because each product is compared by the same standards. Each question in the VPAT comes pre-filled, and it is left to the business to fill out the columns on ‘conformance level’ and ‘Remarks and Explanations’ after conducting VPAT testing of the product or service.
What is VPAT testing?
VPAT testing is the evaluation of how an EIT product or service conforms to the WCAG, Section 508 standards, and the EU’s EN 301 549 standards for accessibility using the appropriate VPAT version.
VPAT testing is, essentially, what drives people and businesses toward ensuring their EIT products and services are accessible to people with disabilities. It underpins the VPAT reports, which are critical in helping buyers of EIT products and services to choose products and services with the most accessibility features.
The kind of information a VPAT report contains
A VPAT report, also referred to as a VPAT accessibility conformance report (ACR) contains a summary or brief description of how the EIT product or service fully or partially meets the VPAT accessibility requirements outlined in the underlying accessibility standards.
The report also describes the VPAT testing methods that were used to validate the product or service’s conformance to the relevant accessibility requirements, duly completed ACR tables, vendor information, the report title and heading information, the EIT product or service and the version (if any), report date, contact information, terms, the VPAT version, and additional information that vendors may opt to provide.
Need help with writing a VPAT report?
Now that you’re ready to develop your VPAT report, it is advisable to choose someone best suited to do it for you. It is important to ensure that the person you choose to help you develop your VPAT ACR is up to date on current accessibility laws and standards, and has a wealth of experience using the latest versions of the VPAT template.
Getting a reputable professionalto complete your VPAT report for you ensures that you protect your business and your report contains all the necessary elements. An incomplete or inaccurate VPAT ACR can put your business at risk if you’re awarded a contract and your EIT product or service does not meet the criteria indicated in the VPAT report.
If you need help with VPAT report writing, feel free to call (626) 486-220 to get assistancefrom an ADA compliance specialist.