Before You Buy: Understand VPATs

Summary

On this page: Have a VPAT? It can help with accessible procurement, but only if you ask hard questions. Learn more about evaluating VPATs here.

Integrate VPAT information and Processes Get link to section Integrate VPAT information and Processes

What is a VPAT? Get link to section What is a VPAT?

A Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) is a data collection tool for gathering ICT accessibility information for technology subject to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The information produced from the VPAT is known as the Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR).

Section 508 is the United States federal government procurement statute, and applies to federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. Many states in the United States incorporate Section 508 standards into state agency purchasing requirements. The most current version of the VPAT is VPAT 2.3(External link), which was released in December 2018.

Most large technology suppliers are familiar with the Section 508 purchasing system and typically have information about the accessibility of their product in a format thatcan be incorporated into a VPAT or ACR.

If your organization sells technology products to the U.S. federal government, or to state agencies, you may also have systems in place to provide or evaluate accessibility information as part of the Section 508 process. Those efforts should be coordinated with all efforts to ensure accessibility of digital tools to support and grow a diverse workforce.

Evaluating VPATs Get link to section Evaluating VPATs

Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates (VPATs) should be evaluated with care. Detailed review and questioning avoid situations where a vendor gives an answer that may create legal, reputational, or security risk for your organization.

For example, Section 508 requires that, for covered technologies, “At least one mode of operation . . . that does not require user vision shall be provided. . . .” If the VPAT response states, “Support Line is available,” the product is not accessible.

And a VPAT that says a product is “partially compliant” requires focused inquiry as described elsewhere in this Toolkit.

VPAT Resources Get link to section VPAT Resources

There are many resources available to assist both vendors and purchasers with VPATs and the Section 508 procurement process in general. Even if your organization is not involved in government purchases subject to Section 508 or related state law requirements, these resources may offer practical ideas for developing and implementing an accessible procurement program focused on supporting and growing disability talent.

  • Resources from the Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology (PEAT), an organization funded by Office of Disability Employment Policy of the U.S. Department of Labor.
  • Resources from the United States federal government.
    • Section508.gov portal, the “GSA Government-wide Accessibility Program,” is a rich resource for all things Section 508, including information about how to buy accessible products and test for accessibility, how to manage an accessibility program, and how to evaluate accessibility claims. It also offers an accessibility training program geared to implementation of Section 508. Section508.gov portal(External link).
    • Accessibility Requirements Tool from the General Services Administration of the United States government is designed to help implement Section 508 and includes sample contract language for Section 508 compliance. This tool is tightly geared to technical requirements of Section 508 implementation: The Accessibility Requirements Tool (ART)(External link).
    • Text of the Section 508 Standards and guidelines may offer helpful language as your organization develops its accessible procurement program for workplace tools. The full guidelines are available here(External link).

Help Suppliers Understand Accessibility Get link to section Help Suppliers Understand Accessibility

Suppliers must understand accessibility as more than a checklist. Here are some ideas to help your organization help its vendors.

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