What is a VPAT?
A VPAT, or voluntary product accessibility template, is a prototype document that gives companies a standard starting point for conducting an extensive analysis of how closely their information and communication technology (ICT) services or products comply with the existing accessibility standards for making ICT usable by people with disabilities.
The VPAT was created by the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) and the General Services Administration (GSA) in partnership with the General Services Administration (GSA). The template helps sellers and manufacturers of ICT products and services assess and record how closely their products and services adhere to each of the accepted accessibility standards.
The VPAT template was created when Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act to require federal agencies to make their ICT accessible to people with disabilities, whether or not the federal government employs those individuals.
Therefore, as part of the procurement processes, federal agencies and public procurement entities in many jurisdictions, including the European Union, ask vendors of ICT products and services to present documentation demonstrating the accessibility of their products and services. The generation of this VPAT compliance documentation is what constitutes VPAT certification.
The VPAT becomes an Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR) once it is filled out or completed. Contracting officers and procurement teams can evaluate an ICT product or service’s support for accessibility using an ACR. Additionally, ACRs help suppliers keep track of how effectively their products and services adhere to the requisite accessibility standards or norms.
What is VPAT Certification?
VPAT certification is the procedure or actions taken to assess an ICT product or service’s VPAT compliance using the VPAT document.
The certification is carried out to ascertain the degree of consonance a product or service has with respect to the best practices in the provision of accessibility as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Revised Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), and the European Union’s EN 301 549 accessibility standards for publicly procurable ACT.
It is important to note that, in spite of the fact that the VPAT document completion process is sometimes referred to as “VPAT certification,” the finished VPAT document is not really an ADA compliance certificate.
It is also not intended to specify a pass or fail outcome; rather, it provides information on how well the product or service under consideration complies with the relevant accessibility standards, enabling vendors and buyers to make more informed decisions about the item during the purchasing process.
As a result, anytime a vendor or buyer wants VPAT certification for a product or service, they are likely referring to the VPAT documentation for the product or service.
Getting VPAT Certification
You can get your VPAT certification done in-house or by enlisting the services of an independent third-party agency like ADACP and many others. There is no requirement that you hire an independent third party to get your VPAT certification.
However, filling out the VPAT document is a technical process that requires the services of an accessibility specialist, either in-house or outsourced.
Unless you or your product or service development team includes a dedicated accessibility specialist, you are not likely to have enough in-house capacity to do the best job on all the components that VPAT certification entails.
VPAT certification entails choosing the right edition of the VPAT to use in documenting the accessibility of your ICT products or services, carrying out the VPAT testing for the products or services, and accurately completing the VPAT document to generate the VPAT ACR.
This being a highly technical area that can make or break the reputation of your business, you can’t afford to pinch pennies when planning to implement it.
Whether you undertake the VPAT certification in-house or outsource it, you’ll have four editions of the VPAT template to choose from depending on the market you intend to sell the targeted product or service in. The editions are:
- The WCAG VPAT edition, which anchors the web content accessibility guidelines
- The Revised Section 508 VPAT, which anchors the accessibility standard for U.S. federal agencies
- The EN 301 549 standard specifies the technical requirements for accessibility for digital products and services that are publicly available in the EU.
- The International (INT) VPAT is comprised of the standards in all three categories above.
You’ll also adhere to the following steps to create your VPAT ACR:
- Start by finding the report or reports on the project dashboard that you wish to include in your VPAT certification.
- Select the reports you wish to include in your VPAT by checking the box next to them, and then click the “Create VPAT” bulk action button.
- Type your VPAT name into the dialog box that appears and select “Make it Happen” from the menu. Please be aware that you cannot publish your VPAT until the template’s accompanying reports have been published.
- A dialog box containing directions on how to amend the VPAT you produced will appear. It will instruct you on how to add the support level supported, remarks, and explanations of the standards and legislation included in the VPAT.
- Be sure to complete the VPAT because if it doesn’t adequately reflect how accessible your digital property is, it could result in liabilities or cost you commercial prospects.
Need Help With Getting Your VPAT Certification?
A VPAT certification done by a credible accessibility specialist will improve your company’s business prospects as well as its reputation. You can learn from this VPAT example if you want to know how to fill out a VPAT document as part of the VPAT certification process.
However, it is important to point out that most buyers associate trustworthy VPAT certification processes with credible third-party agencies. If you want to outsource your VPAT certification to expert accessibility agencies, you can try out ADACP. Call (626) 486-2201 to arrange a free consultation with them.