What is a VPAT?

VPAT stands for Voluntary Product Accessibility Template and this is a template that vendors fill out and deliver to procurement officers as a part of the ACR or Accessibility Conformance Report.

So we’ll get to that in a second, but a VPAT speaks to and represents a product or service’s accessibility.

And so this is going to come into play whenever buyers and selling buyers and sellers are dealing with Information Communications Technology products, so ICT products.

So in the United States, the VPAT has traditionally been a document that has been created in response to vendors contracting with government agencies.

And usually under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and that’s because Section 508 requires that federal agencies develop, procure, maintain, and use Information and Communications Technology, ICT, that is accessible to people with disabilities.

But this is now- what is now happening is in the private marketplace because accessibility is so is such a priority now that you’re seeing private procurement involve VPATs.

But what’s important to remember is that VPats or are for products and services – they are not for websites and mobile apps unless those websites and mobile apps are a product or service.

So a good way to just to differentiate is a software- software is going to is going to, is would be would invoke a VPAT. A website would not.

With the website, if you’re looking for documentation that speaks to its accessibility, this would be a conformance statement or something along those lines.

Now there are four different versions of VPATs so not all VPATs are the same.

And they tie into different standards for accessibility and this is going to be relevant to whatever market whoever you’re selling to their procurement requirements, this is going to be relevant there.

So if you’re in the United States it might be a 508 VPAT might be- is likely the best option.

If you’re in one of the European Union states, EN 301 549 VPAT, and then there’s a VPAT that’s an international VPAT that covers everything- it’s more- it’s more exhaustive.

But it’s important not to just get the VPAT that encompasses the most because it does- you will incur additional costs because it is there is more work to fill them out but many non governmental agencies, for many non governmental agencies, the WCAG version, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version of the VPAT is going to meet your needs.

So it really depends on procurement and who you are delivering this VPAT to or who you would possibly who could possibly be a buyer of your product or service and what they’re going to look for.

Now you can fill out a VPAT by yourself, it can be done internally.

However, because the markets have become more mature, people are going to ask where did you get this VPAT done or who completed this VPAT.

Moreover, you definitely don’t want to misrepresent anything or make your product out to be more accessible than it is.

You want to have an accurate- an accurate accessibility accounting of what the accessibility of your partner service is.

On that note, a VPAT does not have to be- a VPAT doesn’t mean your product is accessible, it just means that you’ve addressed- you have a an accounting of your accessibility. So that’s important to keep in mind.

Now on a VPAT, I’ve said accounting multiple times. The reason I say that is because this is not an audit. This is not where we list out every last issue and we have steps to maybe even reproduce that issue or we have suggestions on how to remediate that issue, where we have any number of additional pieces of additional information that could be used.

An audit is very thorough. A VPAT is more of an accounting.

So with a VPAT, you’re going to have- it’s not just it’s mostly revolves around the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines but the standards used can supersede those so you’ll see additional requirements come into play.

And you can possibly see an additional environments come into play, but primarily the- the primary column to the VPAT is one where you talk about whether it supports or does not support.

So the options will be the product or service: supports a specific success criterion or requirement under standard, it partially supports so it doesn’t mean it doesn’t meet the criterion but it does partially meet it, it does not support at all, and then it’s not applicable so the criterion is just fully criterion just may not it may not be applicable for the product; it may not come into play.

So the VPAT documents themselves are produced by the Technology Industry Council, the ITI,.and they govern the usage.

So you are- the producer of the VPAT is bound by those by those terms.

So a VPAT is, remember the VPAT is the template itself, it’s not anything more than the template.

When it’s filled out what it becomes is an ACR which is an Accessibility Conformance Report.

Now these two terms are commonly used interchangeably, but it’s important to know that technically you’re looking- you want the finished report, you want the Accessibility Conformance Report.

And that’s going to consist of both the material portion of the VPAT being completed as well as the essential information that is required where prompted by the VPAT, that’s also going to be needed to be filled in to be completed.

So I think that covers most of it. A VPAT is not an audit. As I discussed earlier, an audit is going to go into much greater detail.

Importantly too, a VPAT is- cannot be filled in with automation, that does that is not something that’s possible.

Issuance, again you want to make sure that you have a reputable third-party issue a VPAT. I see some overlay vendors are now selling VPATs and I don’t know how they’re doing it.

But by- do not get a VPAT from and overlay vendor that’s- don’t get a VPAT from an overlay vendor and you can watch other videos where I talk about overlays but don’t get- don’t get- overly vendors have no idea what they’re doing no idea what they’re doing.

Just don’t even bother with them. It’s important that whoever issues your VPAT is credible, reputable, and obviously it’s desirable that they’ve been in accessibility for some time because VPATs are complicated documents- especially some of the versions are more complicated than others.

If you get the international version, VPATs go beyond the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. There has to be familiarity with standards, there has to be the ability to test and- and so it’s important to know because there’s other digital assets. This is not just this actually, really doesn’t revolve around- web accessibility is in play, but VPATs go much, much beyond the scope of website accessibility, truly into the realm of digital accessibility.

So issuance, whoever issues your VPAT, it’s very, very important that you get a reputable provider. And that’s it.