The Essential Role of the VPAT in Section 508 Compliance

6 min read

What is a VPAT?


A Voluntary Product Accessibility Template, or VPAT, is a document that enables an organization to assess the accessibility of its digital properties—hardware, software, and electronic content—to people with disabilities using the Revised Standards outlined in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 508). With the VPAT, a business may offer a thorough examination of its compliance with Section 508. This is because the template lists the essential accessibility requirements of Section 508 and provides a means for businesses to clarify how they meet each need.


The Essential Role of the VPAT in Section 508 Compliance


A business needs to explain in detail in the VPAT table fields how the features and functionality of its products comply with all technical requirements of accessibility standards, such as Section 508, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0 or ISO/IEC 40500), the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 (WCAG 2.1), or EN 301 549 for businesses that sell to customers in Europe or Australia.


In general, the duly filled-out VPAT clearly describes how a business's digital properties are accessible to people with disabilities and certifies that the business has taken all required measures to make sure that its products are fully accessible to people with disabilities.


Why the VPAT is used

The VPAT is used by buyers and other contracting officials to assess a business’ information and communication technology (ICT) products for accessibility as well as probing the existence of any flaws. Owing to its comprehensive, criterion-by-criterion structure, the VPAT makes it easier for contracting officers and purchasers to conduct initial evaluations of an IT vendor's solutions. 


The Essential Role of the VPAT in Section 508 Compliance


VPATs frequently underpin a business's Request for Proposal (RFP) process, which is the method by which businesses express interest in acquiring a valued asset, service, or product and request bids from possible suppliers in order to do so. The VPAT is extremely relevant to any company that is a provider of electronic information technology (EIT) that can or will be used by federal workers. Section 508 mandates that all products used by federal employees must be compliant with its’ listed Standards.


The section 508 accessibility is used to document the accessibility of EIT products and services that require Section 508 compliance. Section 508 is applicable to many different types of businesses and goods. A corporation is considered federally financed if someone who receives direct or indirect funding from the federal government utilizes its products. In this case, Section 508 may be applicable. Having said that, it is quite probable that many businesses are missing out on prospective business as a result of their failure to comply with Section 508 or to create a VPAT 508 report that clearly and sufficiently describes their compliance.


The responsibilities of buyers and sellers in the 508 compliance VPAT

Businesses are required to supply buyers of their EIT products or services with the VPAT 508 conformance report if the buyers ask to see them in respect of a specific product or set of products. A company's products must be accessible to people with disabilities, and this is a shared duty between buyers and sellers. 


On the part of buyers, it is important for them to do their research before requesting to view a company's 508 compliance VPAT since it will help determine whether or not the products meet federal accessibility requirements. Assuming that a company's Section 508 VPAT is a real and accurate representation of how accessible its digital properties are, many buyers simply take the VPAT 508 document provided to them at face value. That is not right. Instead, they should study the document carefully enough to be confident in their decision-making (and safety).


In a similar vein, a business must truthfully, completely, and accurately disclose all relevant information on the accessibility—or lack thereof—of its offerings. Businesses want to keep their flaws in products under wraps, even if they are minor ones that they are attempting to fix, because doing so could seriously hurt or even completely stop their sales. Companies nevertheless have a responsibility to disclose all relevant information about the accessibility of their products and services, even in the face of the fact that they’re taking a risk on their part by doing so. 


The best way to guarantee satisfaction for both the buyer and the seller is for both parties to enter into a commitment: sellers agree to disclose information truthfully, and buyers agree to use reasonable care when determining how easily accessible a seller's products are, so as to avoid penalizing complying sellers. 


For sellers, it helps to learn how to disclose the accessibility of products and services from a credible Section 508 VPAT example. Using such an example will result in a VPAT Section 508 compliance statement that aligns with the twin responsibilities of the buyer and the seller in the 508-compliance square.


Need help with your VPAT 508 compliance certification?

If you need assistance filling out the Section 508 VPAT for your products or services or to firm up your VPAT Section 508 compliance statement, ADACP can help.  You can reach them at (626) 486-2201 so as to schedule a free consultation regarding how they can be of help.

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