VPAT

VPAT: Voluntary Product Accessibility Template

A VPAT is a document used to describe the level of conformance of an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) product against the standards outlined in WCAG, Section 508 and EN 301 549. An ICT can be software, hardware, electronic content ( documents, email, PDF, etc.), websites and web apps, mobile apps, and support documentation. When a VPAT is completed correctly, the resulting document is an Accessibility Conformance Report or ACR. This ACR shows an organization's intention and commitment to accessibility and its customers.

A VPAT is made up of two sections. The first section includes instructions on how to complete the VPAT. The instructions are quite extensive, citing essential requirements and best practices. The second section is what will become the ACR once it is completed. This section contains product details such as description, version, contact information, etc., and Conformance Level information. Once this section is completed, it is separated from the instructions section and becomes the official Accessibility Conformance Report.

VPATs were originally created to help the federal government determine if the ICTs they were buying met the Section 508 accessibility standards. Nowadays, many non-federal organizations such as K-12 schools and higher education institutions require vendors to submit a VPAT during the procurement process. This is especially true if the organization receives any federal funding.

The Benefits

A VPAT is a standard reporting format used to document accessibility. The resulting information report, the ACR, gives you a glimpse into how easily people with disabilities could use an ICT product or service. It is critical to review that ACR before getting locked into a purchase. That ACR also promotes accountability on the part of the vendor.

The Limitations

While VPATs are an essential tool in assessing the accessibility features of a given ICT, it's important to remember that even if a product or service meets all the current standards and specifications, some people may still encounter barriers due to the nature or severity of their disability.

Besides, a VPAT is not a substitute for conducting solid automated testing, like with DubBot, and structured manual testing of a proposed ICT.  A VPAT is just one more vital tool in your accessibility assessment toolbox.

Which VPAT Edition Should I Ask a Vendor to Complete?

Currently, there are four different editions of the VPAT:

    • VPAT 2.4 508: Revised Section 508 standards - the US Federal accessibility standard. If your organization adheres to WCAG 2.0 in conjunction with the revised Section 508 of 2018, you will want to choose VPAT 2.4 508: Revised Section 508 standards.


    • VPAT 2.4 WCAG: WCAG 2.1 or ISO / IEC 40500 - W3C / WAI's recently updated Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. For those who adhere to WCAG 2.0 and 2.1, you will want to choose the edition VPAT 2.4 WCAG: WCAG 2.1.


    • VPAT 2.4 EU: EN 301 549 - the European Union's "Accessibility requirements suitable for public procurement of ICT products and services in Europe." If your organization subscribes to WCAG 2.0 and 2.1 and EN 301 549 for ICT procurement in Europe, this is the VPAT you want to choose.


    • VPAT 2.4 INT: Incorporates all three of the above.

Get Your VPATs Here!

Founded in 1916, The Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) is the "premier advocacy and policy organization" that promotes "public policies and industry standards that advance competition and innovation worldwide." They are the "keepers of the VPAT," so you will find the edition you need, plus more background information on the VPAT and ACR, on the ITI website.


Resources

Maggie Vaughan, CPACC
~ friend of DubBot, A11Y practitioner in higher ed