What Is The Section 508 VPAT?
Let’s first clarify what the voluntary product accessibility template (VPAT) is before describing what the Section 508 VPAT is.
The Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) and the General Services Administration (GSA) created the VPAT as a template that manufacturers and vendors of information and communication technology (ICT) products and services can use to document how closely their products and services adhere to the established accessibility standards.
The VPAT form was initially created to assist businesses in showing that their products and services comply with Section 508 in order to work with federal government agencies.
Section 508 compliance certification follows the 1998 amendment to the U.S. Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by Congress, which requires that the federal government procures, creates, uses, and maintains ICT that is accessible to people with disabilities, regardless of whether they work for the federal government or not.
The goal of developing the VPAT in 2001 was to give standards reporting a format and make it simpler for procurement teams and contracting officials to make initial determinations regarding whether or not procurable ICT products and services comply with Section 508 accessibility standards. You can also use an automated Section 508 compliance testing tool to gain a clear picture of your website’s accessibility status.
The VPAT Is Available In Four Editions
The ITI provides the VPAT in four editions based on the guidelines or standards being evaluated. The editions are the VPAT Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), the Section 508 Compliance VPAT, the European Union’s EN 301 549 VPAT, and the International (INT) VPAT.
The WCAG edition of the VPAT includes WCAG 2.0 and WCAG 2.1, whose use is optional. Websites, web content, electronic documents, software, and authoring tools are evaluated using this edition of the VPAT to determine their level of WCAG compliance.
Section 508 VPAT is the edition of the VPAT used to explain how an ICT product or service conforms to the revised Section 508 Standards for IT accessibility.
The INT VPAT combines all the accessibility requirements specified in the other three VPAT editions: WCAG VPAT, Section 508 Compliance VPAT, and the EU (EN 301 549) VPAT, and is used to document the level of conformance to all the existing accessibility standards for ICT products and services procurable globally. The EU VPAT edition anchors the EU’s EN 301 549 accessibility standard for publicly procurable ICT in Europe.
The Meaning of Section 508 VPAT
Section 508 VPAT is the prototype document that dictates how the ICT products and services the federal agencies can procure must align with. This edition of the VPAT assists the federal contracting and procurement officials in fulfilling the market research requirements contained within the Section 508 implementation regulations for the procurement of ICT products and services by federal agencies.
Section 508 VPAT also enables ICT product and service manufacturers and vendors to document how their products and services meet the revised Section 508 accessibility standards.
It means that ICT products and services that do not have Section 508 VPAT certification cannot participate in the procurement processes by federal agencies even if the products and services have superior quality to their competitors that have the certification.
How To Get Section 508 VPAT Certification
Downloading the Section 508 compliance VPAT from the ITI website is the first step in obtaining Section 508 VPAT certification. After downloading the template, carefully read the instructions, complete the VPAT assessment, and fill out the VPAT form, including the necessary tables.
There are four Section 508 VPAT tables. They are labeled as Chapter 3: Functional Performance Criteria; Chapter 4: Hardware; Chapter 5: Software; and Chapter 6: Support Documentation and Services.
If there are functions in your product or service that are not addressed by Chapters 4 or 5, it means that the product or service needs to conform to the criteria in Chapter 3. You’ll therefore need to answer the following questions in order to determine which chapters to complete:
- Does the product or service contain hardware? If it does, then complete Chapter 4: Hardware.
- Does your product or service contain non-web software? If it does, then complete Chapter 5: Software.
- Does your product or service contain support documentation and services? If it does, then complete Chapter 6: Support Documentation and Services.
- If your product or service cannot be evaluated using the criteria that exist, then complete Chapter 3: Functional Performance Criteria.
For each table in the VPAT form, you’ll find a section for notes. Use it to provide any comments you have about the overall applicability of that table to your product or service. You can review this Section 508 VPAT example for further knowledge on filling out the template.
Once you’ve carefully filled out all the required sections of the VPAT, you should remove the instructions pages and countercheck the filled sections to ensure there are no errors and that all the sections are filled out. At this stage, your Section 508 VPAT has transformed into Section 508 compliance VPAT accessibility conformance report (ACR).
You should make the ACR publicly accessible by posting it on your website or by making a VPAT Section 508 compliance statement about the product or service with links or directions about how to obtain the comprehensive ACR.
Need Help With Filling Out Section 508 Compliance Vpats?
If you need assistance with completing Section 508 compliance VPATs, you can reach out to ADACP by calling (626) 486-2201. They offer free consultations.