Any business or vendor responsible for providing electronic communication and information technology products for federal workers must take the time to become familiar with the function and requirements of a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT). The VPAT is a part of a federal law called the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 508 of this Act mandates that federal agencies must only use information technology that is accessible to people with disabilities.
To ensure that a vendor is compliant with the regulations of Section 508, the business should complete a VPAT, a document that comprehensively outlines how the product is meeting each standard set forth by the law. Creating a VPAT report is essential for your business if your products are meant for the employees of federally funded organizations. Here are some best practices when filling out a VPAT to guarantee accessibility for all users.
1) Use complete honesty.
Although it may be tempting to omit anything about your product that might not support accessibility, it's vital that you are open and forthright with all details on the VPAT. If you misrepresent the capabilities of your product, you run the risk of selling it to an organization that won't be able to use it. This can be problematic for your company, as you may lose future business opportunities or even face legal consequences as a result.
Perhaps your technology doesn't yet offer captions for video content, but you are taking steps to incorporate that functionality in upcoming versions of your product. The fact that you are working on making adjustments should be mentioned on the VPAT. No matter how minor the shortfall is, neglecting to include it in your report can have a disastrous outcome. Be sure to adequately describe any aspects of your product that are lacking accessibility, and use the space provided on the template to explain what you are doing to eliminate the deficiencies.
2) Be in-depth as well as concise with your descriptions.
When an organization purchases your product, they are taking your VPAT at face value. No one wants to conduct a rigorous evaluation of your report to determine if any information is absent or incomplete. For this reason, you must be certain that you furnish thorough remarks about the elements of your product and how they comply with the regulations of Section 508. Additionally, the organization will not be interested in performing a time-consuming analysis of what you've written, so your VPAT must also be concise. Your report should outline all relevant features in an easy-to-read format to help the purchaser of your product quickly assess the information.
3) Keep your VPAT updated.
As you complete revisions to your product, some of the descriptions on your VPAT will change accordingly. Be sure to adjust your report to reflect those modifications, and add the amended date each time. Always remember to include the version as well. It's also important to have your VPAT available on demand or visible on your company website. This will make accessing your information at any given time simple for both you and your customer.
Presenting a comprehensive VPAT is crucial in helping your business maintain compliance with Section 508 and preserve a good working relationship with the organizations that use your products.