Write Review

What Is A VPAT And Why Do We Need It?

Today, we can see thousands of websites that provide all kinds of products or services on the Internet. Anyone has access to creating a website, so this means that all products and services are of different quality.

When searching for any product, it’s not always necessary for the product to be pretty, unique, etc. Sometimes, it is more important to know the accessibility of a certain service, so you can decide whether to purchase it. You should always keep in mind that there are also people with disabilities that need easily accessible services.

 

Article banner

 

We’re pleased to introduce you to VPAT – Voluntary Product Accessibility Template. If you’re not familiar with this term, you must have many questions about what it is, how it helps, and why we need it? Our blog will help you understand the benefits of VPAT and whether it is worth using!

What is a VPAT?

Speaking of the importance of accessibility, we mentioned a maybe unknown term to some of you – VPAT. If you’re wondering what steps to take to make your technology more accessible, we recommend using VPAT.

Important: VPAT or Voluntary Product Accessibility Template is a template that drafts your Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR), developed by a vendor or a product developer. VPAT evaluates if the product pleases the accessibility standards of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act

To make it clear, the VPAT is just a generic document template that is self-disclosing. Besides only focusing on accessibility, it also covers any potential ‘accessibility blockers’ or deficiencies that may appear. Although it may sound very simple, this template has a very significant role in today’s technology. VPAT is also helpful for people with disabilities as it accommodates their needs.

screenshot of Section508.gov website

Tip: To help you create a picture in your head, think of VPAT like a sort of ‘Nutrition Facts’ label on some product.

That label shows you precisely how many calories you consume, and it helps you get an overall thought about how some food impacts your body. Well, we can say that the VPAT works in pretty much the same way as those labels. By checking the VPAT, your customers will have a sense of how your product or service improves their goals, the benefits from it, and what can occasionally appear like a ‘drawback.’

Are You Familiar With the Term ACR?

While explaining what VPAT is, we mentioned another unknown term – ACR. ACR or Accessibility Conformance Report consists of the completed VPAT and the crucial information that helps you complete the report. Let’s see what do you need to include in your report:

  • Report title
  • VPAT version
  • Name of product/service
  • Description of the product/service
  • Date of publication
  • Contact information
  • Used evaluation methods
  • Applicable standards

What Else Do You Need to Know About VPAT?

So far, we have explained the basic information about both VPAT and ACR. However, VPATs are complex, so you need to know precisely how to create them. VPAT comes with content concentrated in the table where each Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) success criteria is addressed. Here are the three essential columns in VPAT:

  • Criteria
  • Conformance level
  • Remarks and explanations

Criteria

  • The first column
  • Lists each WCAG success criterion that has been addressed

Conformance Level

The Conformance level column indicates if the product or service:

  • Supports: the product’s functionality has at least one method that meets the criterion
  • Partially Supports: some product’s functionality doesn’t meet the criterion
  • Doesn’t Support: most product’s functionality doesn’t meet the criterion
  • Not Applicable: the criterion isn’t relevant to the product

Remarks and Explanations

The third VPAT column is for remarks and explanations. This column allows you to elaborate on the answer provided in the ‘support’ column. If the conformance level is ‘Partially Supports’ or ‘Doesn’t Support’, the remarks would identify:

  • How do they not fully support
  • The features and functions with issues

Versions and Editions of VPAT

VPATs come with different versions and editions. The latest VPAT version is:

  • VPAT 2.4

VPAT has four editions that help ICT manufacturers to create relevant ACRs. Let’s see the difference of these four editions:

  • VPAT 2.4 508: Revised Section 508 standards – the US Federal accessibility standard
  • VPAT 2.4 EU: EN 301 549 – the EU’s ‘Accessibility requirements suitable for public procurement of ICT products and services in Europe’
  • VPAT 2.4 WCAG: WCAG 2.1 or ISO/IEC 40500 – W3C/WAI’s recently updated WCAG
  • VPAT 2.4 INT: incorporates the three above standards
Warning: It would be best if you use the VPAT 2.0 or higher, as Section 508 was updated in 2017, and each VPAT older than that may be out of date.

Why Do You Need a VPAT?

VPAT was developed by the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) and the General Services Administration (GSA) in 2001. From that day, VPAT only boosts the accessibility of ICT products and services. From what you’ve read so far, we can say that VPAT is a helpful tool that tends to make technology more accessible to anyone, no matter their disabilities. We mentioned Section 508, which is connected with the VPAT term, a few times. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that US Federal government agencies make sure that any ICT fulfills some accessibility standards. As we said, this process goes on for more than two decades. To keep up with the technology development, VPATs update their format to be in step with the changes of Section 508. You can read more about this above, where we’ve provided the versions and editions of VPAT. However, whatever edition you decide to choose, you will enjoy the same benefits and purposes of VPAT. To be more precise, we decided to create a short bullet list that will help you understand why do you need VPAT:

  • A product that accommodates accessibility standards and the organization’s requirements
  • Compare compliance of similar products
  • Plan equally effective access when a product isn’t available
  • Understand the product’s level of accessibility
Key takeaway: Shortly, an ACR which is created by using VPAT, showcases the accessibility of your technology, at the same time showing you’ve done all necessary steps that will also ease the journey of people with disabilities.

Final Thoughts – A Tool That Provides Your Technology’s Accessibility

We’ve tried to help you understand everything you need to know about VPAT – Voluntary Product Accessible Template with our guide. By learning what VPAT is and why you need it, you can understand the importance of your product’s or service’s web accessibility.

Final Verdict: VPAT is a generated document your users can read and see everything about your technology.

Although a complex tool, VPAT is easy to understand if you read this guide and will significantly help you boost your technology. And even if you are still struggling with the concepts and application, there’s yet another solution for your business; web accessibility tools. The best accessibility tools/services can either guide you to the process or apply an automated solution. Either way, you will comply with VPAT – please the accessibility standards of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act!

screenshot of Best Accessibility Tools article