Do You Have a VPAT®? New ADA Title II Rule Means Product Accessibility Required

Digital product vendors have reached an important decision: Should they invest time and money in digital accessibility or continue on their current path?

Given the new digital accessibility rule under Title II of the ADA, state and local government entities across the United States must now make their websites, web content, and mobile apps conformant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 AA technical standard.

These public entities include schools, parks, courts, law enforcement, emergency services, and many other organizations, programs, and activities. And there are approximately 90,000 public entities in the U.S. according to the Census Bureau.

Digital Products and Compliance

This means that these different public entities – and especially educational institutions – will require WCAG 2.1 AA conformance of the digital products they use:

  • Content Management Systems (CMS)
  • Calendar systems
  • Learning Management Systems (LMS)
  • Software
  • Platforms
  • Payment portals
  • Virtual meeting and conferencing tools
  • Email marketing tools
  • Mobile applications (apps)
  • Web applications
  • Data analytics
  • Forums and communities
  • Digital publishing platforms
  • Video streaming services
  • Interactive eBooks

Business Opportunities and Compliance Benefits

The upcoming demand represents a multi-billion dollar opportunity for digital product sellers, but they will need to invest in accessibility to be considered for contract renewals and have procurement officers consider their product.

The best way to approach accessibility is to audit and remediate their product against the WCAG 2.1 AA standard. After these services are completed, the seller can then request the service provider use a VPAT® to create an ACR.

VPAT stands for Voluntary Product Accessibility Template. Once the template is filled out it becomes an Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR).

What often goes over looked by product owners is investing in digital accessibility can have benefits outside of legal and compliance reasons.

By ensuring their products are accessible, vendors can attract a very large market that has historically been overlooked: people with disabilities. Accessibility can also enhances the user experience for all users, which benefits conversions, sales, etc.

WCAG 2.1 AA Conformance

The process of reaching WCAG 2.1 AA conformance involves three steps. First, vendors need to source an audit to formally evaluate the accessibility of their product. An audit can only result from a formal, manual evaluation of the digital asset by a technical accessibility expert.

After receiving the audit report, the next step is remediation, which means fixing the identified accessibility issues to be in conformance with WCAG 2.1 AA.

An optional, but highly recommend next step is user testing. During user testing a professional with one or more disabilities evaluates the product based on their practical experience. If there are any remaining issues after user testing, those are resolved.

VPAT and Documentation

Now that steps 1-3 have been completed, the service provider can issue documentation. Documentation can include:

  • statement of conformance
  • provider certification
  • user testing attestation (and recorded session)

But, of course, the best and most requested document for product marketability is an ACR, or as procurement agents frequently say, a VPAT.

Again, the VPAT is only the blank template, but the usage of the term VPAT has become pervasive in the marketplace.

When the ACR is completed, it will be thorough and have all details filled out as well as appropriate supplemental information in the remarks and explanations column.

Will Your VPAT be Accepted?

There are a few ways you can ruin your VPAT / ACR’s marketability (which means buyers will reject it):

  • Your ACR is issued by an accessibility company with a bad reputation (e.g., overlay widget sellers, overlay sellers, companies who insist that remediation can be automated)
  • You create your ACR in-house, without the requisite digital accessibility expertise
  • Your ACR is no longer fresh (after 2.5 years it’s time to get a new one)
  • Your ACR doesn’t cover the latest version of your product
  • Your ACR contains nothing in the remarks and explanations column
  • Your ACR contains aspirational or marketing type messaging (an ACR is a sterile document, not a promotional tool)

VPAT Services

Do you need help with accessibility services and producing a VPAT?

Learn how can help you with WCAG 2.1 AA conformance. A fully accessible product will distance you from the competition and help you earn the contract.

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