What is a VPAT?

31 May 2024

A VPAT, short for Voluntary Product Accessibility Template, is a document that organizations complete to demonstrate their dedication to creating products that are accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. It serves as a formal declaration of compliance with accessibility standards, reflecting a commitment not just to ethical principles but also to adhering to relevant legal requirements. By providing a VPAT, companies transparently showcase their efforts to ensure their offerings are inclusive, thereby reducing the risk of legal implications related to accessibility violations.

How a VPAT works

VPATs are generated through using the results of a comprehensive manual audit of the web based product or site. VPATs utilize WCAG 2.1 and 2.2 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) as their success criteria, which are internationally recognized standards for accessibility. These criterias are categorized and evaluated using a simple rating system to show how well a product meets accessibility standards. 

In VPATs, the rating system categorizes accessibility into three levels: “Supports,” “Partially Supports,” and “Does Not Support.”

  • “Supports” indicates full compliance with accessibility standards, meaning the product is accessible to users with disabilities.
  • “Partially Supports” means the product meets some accessibility standards but may have limitations or areas needing improvement.
  • “Does Not Support” denotes significant barriers to accessibility, indicating that the product does not meet key accessibility requirements.

Example of a VPAT for Accessible Web’s RAMP application:

Who needs a VPAT?

A VPAT is used by organizations across various industries to show how their web based products or services comply with accessibility standards. This is especially important in sectors like education, healthcare (particularly insurance companies), finance, government, and any companies that mandate their vendors to meet accessibility requirements. Additionally, products that offer APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) for integration into other systems also use VPATs.

Consider a software company developing an educational platform that will be used by public schools across the country. In this scenario, a VPAT would be required to ensure the platform meets accessibility standards outlined in laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. By providing a VPAT, the company demonstrates to school districts and regulatory bodies that their product is accessible to all students, including those with disabilities. 

What’s the difference between a VPAT and an ACR?

A VPAT (Voluntary Product Accessibility Template) and an ACR (Accessibility Conformance Report) are closely related. Essentially, a VPAT serves as the foundation for an ACR. Both documents detail how a product or service aligns with accessibility standards, but it’s the ACR that takes the information in the VPAT and expands it into a full report. This means the VPAT sets the stage by outlining accessibility features and potential gaps, and the ACR follows up with a comprehensive analysis. In simple terms, the VPAT is a snapshot of your accessibility efforts, and the ACR is the complete picture, showing the depth of your commitment to making your offerings accessible to everyone.

For instance, in the context of a government agency procuring new software, VPATs and ACRs are often used interchangeably to assess accessibility. When the agency is reviewing potential software options, it looks at the VPATs provided by vendors to quickly understand how their products claim to meet accessibility standards. ACRs tend to be a broader version of the VPAT going into greater detail with specific details on compliance and any areas needing improvement.

Celebrate your success

Leveraging your VPAT results in your marketing and with your sales team is smart and shows your company cares about making things accessible for everyone. It sets your website or product apart, attracting more customers, including those with disabilities, and catches the eye of organizations that value accessibility. This strategy boosts your reputation and opens up new opportunities by meeting the increasing need for accessible products and services.

Why Accessible Web?

As an industry leader in accessibility, Accessible Web has worked with companies and governments across the globe to provide VPATs, audits and accessibility support. With a broad range of clients in various major industries, our products and services have helped build accessible experiences for millions of users. 

We begin by identifying accessibility issues with our incredibly thorough manual auditing process. Testing every element of the page in scope against every WCAG criteria by using our manual auditing tool, we perform many hundreds of checks to ensure that we identify any issues. Our clients are then provided with a documented and prioritized list of accessibility issues through our platform, RAMP. Here you can easily monitor and track your remediation progress as you work towards providing a more accessible experience on your website or product. 

When it comes to VPATs, our process is unique. We provide clients with ongoing support to keep their VPATs up to date as they make progress with remediating their site. Unlike the “one and done” approach, this method provides our clients with demonstrable updates of their progress and accomplishments in building an accessible website or product. 

With our proven track record and many satisfied clients around the world, we hope you look to Accessible Web to fulfill your digital accessibility needs.