Certification for 508 Compliance: The Essential Guide

5 min read

What is 508 compliance certification?


"508 compliance certification" is the attestation that a product or service has attained certain acceptable levels of accessibility as required by the revised Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act.


Certification for 508 compliance is done using the VPAT 508, which is the edition of the voluntary product accessibility template (VPAT) used for documenting the accessibility of information and communication technology (ICT) products and services procurable by U.S. federal organizations.


Section 508 compliance VPAT is used to test the features of websites and applications, software, and hardware to establish the extent to which they are usable by people who are blind or have low vision, deafness or hearing loss, and other types of disability. Without Section 508 VPAT compliance, an individual, organization, or business cannot engage in business with the U.S. federal government, departments, and agencies, as well as federally funded organizations.


What is VPAT compliance?


VPAT compliance refers to the use of the VPAT to carry out evidence-based documentation that helps a company or organization assess and demonstrate how its ICT products and services conform to the accepted accessible standards and guidelines.


Certification for 508 Compliance: The Essential Guide

VPAT compliance entails choosing the right edition of the VPAT template to use in documenting how your ICT products or services are accessible, conducting VPAT testing of the products or services, filling out the VPAT document to generate a VPAT report, and making the report accessible to the public.


There are four editions of the VPAT template a vendor can use to document the accessibility of his or her ICT products or services. These are the Section 508 VPAT, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 or 2.1 VPAT, the European Union (EU) VPAT, and the International (INT) VPAT.


The market a vendor wants his or her products or services to be procurable in informs the choice of the VPAT edition to use in a VPAT compliance process. For instance, the Section 508 compliance VPAT is used for VPAT certification of products and services procurable by the U.S. federal government, departments, and agencies, as well as federally funded organizations, while the EU VPAT and the INT VPAT are used for VPAT certification of products and services that are publicly procurable in Europe and internationally, respectively. The WCAG VPAT is used for documenting the accessibility of websites and web-based applications.


What does "ICT" refer to in certifications for 508 compliance?


When ICT is mentioned in VPAT 508 compliance, it refers to software and websites, electronic documents such as PDFs, multimedia content, phones, call centers, hardware equipment like computers and printers, applications, etc.


Any kind of electronic or web asset that you have that people may use in order to access federal services requires Section 508 compliance certification.


Section 508 compliance VPAT testing procedures


Section 508 VPAT testing involves testing a product or service against the provisions of the 508 accessibility standards as well as the WCAG success criteria via automatic testing or manual testing.


Automated VPAT compliance testing involves using accessibility checkers to scan an ICT and generate a list of barriers that require fixing. Automated accessibility checkers typically identify but do not resolve accessibility issues in ICT. They also do not identify all the accessibility barriers present in the ICT product or service and could lead to non-compliance fines or lawsuits.


Manual testing is usually the best way to get a clearer picture of the state of accessibility of your ICT, and it is the VPAT testing approach that provides the most reliable Section 508 compliance certification.


While some organizations may choose to use either the automated or manual VPAT 508 testing approaches, it is advisable to go for the holistic approach that embraces a hybrid of the two. That is because Section 508 compliance testing is complex, and using a suitable combination of testing methods allows one to cover more ground in terms of identifying probable accessibility challenges.


Get help with your Section 508 compliance certification


Section 508 compliance certification is a complex but vital step in a business’ journey toward ensuring the accessibility of its products and services to all users. Your business does not need to go at it alone because you can be assisted throughout the VPAT compliance journey, right from VPAT testing to making your VPAT report publicly accessible.


If you’re interested in how you can be helped through your Section 508 compliance, Call Our Consultant Today to find out how you can be assisted to bring your business into compliance with Section 508.

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