VPAT® stands for Voluntary Product Accessibility Template. A VPAT is a document that helps procurement agents quickly assess your digital product’s accessibility.
VPATs are issued for a wide range of digital products including web products, desktop applications, software, and hardware.
What is it?
A VPAT is a template that, when completed, provides an overview of the accessibility of a product as per the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). As we head into 2021, most digital products will be evaluated based on WCAG 2.1 AA.
A VPAT is related to a manual accessibility audit in that an audit must be conducted to complete and accurately fill out a VPAT, but a VPAT is not an audit itself.
Rather, the table for a VPAT lists out each WCAG success criteria and includes the support level and any relevant notes for each.
The support levels are:
- Partially Supports
- Does Not Support
- Not applicable
Note that it is not always practically and/or technologically feasible to make a product or service fully WCAG 2.0 AA or 2.1 AA conformant.
The Information Technology Industry Council developed the the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template® to create Accessibility Conformance Reports (ACRs) to assist government contracting officials and other buyers in identifying commercially available information and communications technology (ICT) with accessible features.
You can find examples of a VPAT on the ITIC.org website.
Accessibility Conformance Report
An Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR) is the final report generated from filling out a VPAT. However, this term has not been picked up and even final reports are typically referred to as VPATs in procurement.
Example: Here is the ACR for Google Docs.
As per Section 508, a VPAT is a requirement if you want to conduct business with the Federal government or one of the government’s vendors.
“If you manufacture, build, design, create, teach, or resell ICT products or services, you are an ICT Vendor. To do business with the Federal government, you need to demonstrate that your ICT product or service is accessible and conforms to the Revised 508 Standards.”
Also, VPAT requests to ensure product accessibility are rapidly becoming standard practice in the private marketplace. Many B2B transactions hinge on whether a VPAT is provided by a vendor or seller.
Consumers also are increasingly looking for VPATs to assess a product’s level of accessibility and whether they should purchase the product.
Some organizations post their VPATs publicly. In many cases, it’s highly beneficial to do so. The more accessible a product or service is (relative to the competition), the more likely it is that a contract will be awarded or the product or service will be purchased.
It is highly recommended that you hire a reputable third party that specializes in accessibility to create your VPAT.
While VPATs can be created in-house, this can be problematic as a VPAT requires expertise and experience to understand and fill out the form competently and accurately.
Moreover, in-house assessments are more likely to gloss over accessibility issues rather than detail them.
VPATs are ineffective and detrimental if they are not accurately and honestly filled out.
If you need help with a VPAT, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.