In today’s purchasing market, accessibility is an increasingly important factor for companies looking to sell their products and services to government agencies, universities, and other organizations that care about accessibility. Many organizations now require a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) during the purchasing process to assess the accessibility of a product or service and determine if it meets their accessibility requirements.
A VPAT is a document that provides detailed information on the accessibility of a product or service, including its conformance with accessibility regulations such as Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
No VPAT, No participation in the RFP process, and No purchase!
Process of Getting a VPAT
Creating a VPAT is a vital step in demonstrating the accessibility of your product or service to all users, including constituents, customers, students, and employees with disabilities.
A VPAT serves as a tool to demonstrate your commitment to accessibility and provides a comprehensive report on the accessibility of your product or service to potential purchasers.
Completing a VPAT is more than just filling out completing the template. It involves a multi-step process that involves conducting an accessibility audit assessment, identifying compliance issues, completing the VPAT form, and publishing the Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR).
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to obtain a VPAT:
- Conduct an Accessibility Audit Assessment: The first step in creating a VPAT is to assess the accessibility of your product or service. This can be done through a combination of manual testing and automated testing. Your auditor/tester needs to understand the accessibility requirements specified in Section 508 and WCAG 2.0/2.1 and any relevant laws and regulations in your state.
- Identify areas for improvement: Based on the results of your accessibility audit assessment, identify areas for improvement in your product or service, including fixing any issues that are non-compliant with WCAG standards, as well as issues that prevent users with disabilities from accessing and using the product.
- Complete the VPAT Form: The VPAT form is a standardized document that provides a detailed report on the accessibility of a product or service. The form includes a number of sections that must be completed, including a summary of the product’s accessibility, information on the product’s conformance with Section 508 and WCAG 2.0/2.1, and a list of any known accessibility issues and limitations. It is a complex form; completing it correctly is important to minimize legal liability and maintain reputational damage.
- Publish the VPAT: Once a VPAT is completed, it is called an Accessibility Compliance Report (ACR). The final step in creating an ACR is to publish the document. This can be done by making the ACR VPAT available on your company’s website (not required) or by providing it to customers or stakeholders upon request.
- Review and update the VPAT as Needed: After completing the VPAT/ACR form, it’s important to review the document periodically and make any necessary updates as significant changes or new releases are made to your product.
It’s important to note that an inaccurate or deficient VPAT may fail to meet purchasing requirements and may not accurately reflect the accessibility of your product or service.
To avoid this, it’s recommended that you work with a trusted digital accessibility partner vendor who has expertise in accessibility standards and federal and state laws and can produce create a comprehensive and accurate VPAT/ACR.
How Long Does It Take to Create a VPAT?
The time it takes to create a VPAT can vary depending on the size and complexity of a product or service and the resources available to conduct an accessibility audit assessment. Typically, it can take a week to a month, including time for conducting an accessibility assessment, identifying areas for improvement, completing the VPAT form, reviewing and updating the document, and publishing the ACR.
Creating a VPAT/ACR is a detailed process that requires technical expertise, compliance knowledge, and time. By following the steps outlined above and working with a trusted partner vendor, your organization can ensure the accessibility of your product or service and protect against legal liability, reputational damage, and loss of business opportunities.
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