What is a VPAT and why do we need it?

For the disabled, Information and Communication Technologies have made leaps and bounds of developments. According to UNESCO, Information and Communication Technology allows those with disabilities to “enhance their social, cultural, political and economic integration in communities.” This is because Information and Communication Technology continues to make the world broader for these people. With millions in the U.S. living with disabilities, it would be beneficial for developers and those in the ICT field to pay closer attention to catering to this community. With the Americans with Disability Act in place as well as the Rehabilitation act, a renewed focus must be given to ensure most, if not all, people are able to access information equally and with ease.

Accessibility in ICT

Accessibility for information and communication technology has become an increasingly important standard. Accessibility herein means that anyone, regardless of them being someone with, let’s say a hearing disability, can access your product, website, application just as anyone who is not disabled would. Before a person would even interact with your product, they can consult your product’s VPAT that is if your company or product is VPAT compliant.

VPAT Defined

But what exactly is a VPAT? The VPAT is short for Voluntary Product Accessibility Template. This document serves to “provide a comprehensive analysis of your conformance to accessibility standards set by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation act.” Section 508 of the Rehabilitation act, simply put, is making sure that Information and Communication Technology, especially that which will be used by the U.S. Federal government agencies are accessible to persons with disabilities. Such technologies include, but are not limited to software, hardware, electronic content, and support documentation.

Importance of a VPAT

For those in the Information and Communication Technologies field, VPAT compliance is of utmost importance. On the surface level, this means that you may be losing business when you are not VPAT compliant or if you don’t have a VPAT at all. It is easy for users to write off businesses that do not have accessibility in mind despite the product possibly being the best fit for their needs.

Keep in mind that on your journey to VPAT compliance, you will probably feel like you may want to avoid giving away possible issues or items which our product or service may be lacking. It is important to be completely truthful regarding these. The VPAT templates usually have enough space to take note of these. Instead of omitting these, one should instead take note of them and how they are to be addressed moving forward. Taking note of these product deficiencies may be a good way to figure out how to better improve your product or even products in the future.

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