A Section 508 VPAT: What is it?

5 min read

What is Section 508?

It's helpful to comprehend what Section 508 and the voluntary product accessibility template (VPAT) are in order to better appreciate the Section 508 VPAT.

Section 508 is part of the 1998 amendment to the U.S. Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that requires all federal information and communication technology (ICT) to be accessible to people with disabilities, regardless of whether these people work for the federal government or not.

This section of the Rehabilitation Act forbids discrimination against people with disabilities in jobs or services provided by federal agencies or programs. It requires federal agencies to give their employees and individuals with disabilities access to information that is comparable to that available to other people.

 A Section 508 VPAT: What is it?

It is set out in the section that all ICT produced, maintained, purchased, or used by the federal government and its agencies must comply with the requirements set out in the section.

Accordingly, when any federal organization develops, acquires, maintains, or makes use of electronic and information technology, it is subject to this section of the Act. To guarantee that ICT is usable and accessible to people with disabilities, the revised Section 508 accessibility standards provide the necessary scoping and technical requirements.

Deepening Section 508 compliance through VPAT certification

To deepen compliance with Section 508, the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) worked in partnership with the General Services Administration (GSA) to create the voluntary product accessibility template (VPAT).

The VPAT is a prototype document that vendors and manufacturers of information and communication technology (ICT) products and services can use to self-generate statements that describe how their ICT products or services adhere to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), the European Union's EN 301 459 accessibility standards, or Section 508 accessibility standards for ICT.

It gives businesses a common framework for conducting in-depth audits of how well their ICT products and services adhere to the established accessibility standards for making them usable by people with disabilities.

If you have an ICT company that is based in the US, do not be misled into thinking that because Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act seems to only apply directly to federal entities, you shouldn’t bother creating VPAT reports for your ICT products and services.

You need to fill out a Section 508 VPAT if you desire to conduct business with any federal entity or organizations that receive federal funds. Without Section 508 compliance VPAT reports for your ICT products and services, you’ll have excluded the products and services from the lucrative federal market.

How to secure Section 508 compliance certification

As already alluded to, all companies and organizations seeking to work with any federal entity in the United States should anticipate the need for an updated VPAT 508 compliance statement or report for each of their publicly procurable digital offerings.

There are two pathways you can take toward getting your Section 508 compliance certification. You can either have it done in-house or enlist the services of an independent third-party accessibility professional like ADACP.

While there is no obligation for a business to hire an independent third-party expert to create or update a Section 508 VPAT for a company, it is the advisable thing to do because it bespeaks credibility and objectivity from the viewpoint of the buyers and procurement teams.

In fact, many buyers and procurement teams will check the expert who wrote a product’s or service’s VPAT Section 508 compliance statement and quickly convince themselves whether to proceed with reviewing the product’s or service’s VPAT 508 report or not.

Regardless of whether you choose to undertake the Section 508 compliance certification in-house or by outsourcing the services of an accessibility expert, you’ll need to adhere to the following steps when creating your VPAT reports:

  1. Start by finding the report or reports on the project dashboard that you wish to include in your VPAT 508 certification.
  2. Select the reports you wish to include in your VPAT 508 by checking the box next to them, and then click the "Create VPAT" bulk action button.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Ensure that you 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 in creating a VPAT Section 508 compliance statement or report?

You can learn how to create or update your VPAT 508 report by reviewing a VPAT 508 examples filled out by accessibility experts. If you need any further assistance, do not hesitate to contact ADACP at (626) 486-220 for a free VPAT consultation and ideas about how you can create a good Section 508 VPAT report.


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