US law mandates that digital information and communication provided by federal government agencies must be accessible to every individual. To ensure full digital access, Section 508 has been added to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Compliance with Section 508 can be confirmed with a VPAT statement.
A VPAT is a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template that is used by businesses and organizations to rigorously test their compliance levels. A business legally abides by VPAT assessments if they are selling software, hardware, electronic content or similar digital communication products to federal agencies.
Although Section 508 is linked with legal compliance for federal procurements, it has also become a standard practice by every US business to aim for VPAT accessibility. Here is an overview of the best practices to attain VPAT reports:
- Accessibility standards:In order to fill out the report, the respondent must be familiar with the four conformance levels of VPAT: supports, partially supports, does not support and not applicable.
If you are not sure about conformance to the accessibility standards, it is best to hire a third party expert.
- Product information: The conformance template is way more than just ‘support’ or ‘doesn’t support’. You need to conduct a thorough analysis at every step to be able to give detailed information about the compliance levels.
- Update:Filling out a VPAT is important, though what’s more important is to have an up-to-date VPAT. Make sure to evaluate your products whenever you update them. As a best practice, VPAT updates are required once every 12-16 months.
- Remediation: Accessibility compliance is an ongoing process. Therefore, comprehensive evaluation and remediation must be done based on the revised updates of Section 508 and WCAG standards.
VPAT Testing Tool Vs Manual Audits
As discussed above, VPAT reporting requires thorough evaluation therefore it is wise to seek help from auditors. You may have heard about WAVE, TAW and various other accessibility testers. Their software scans are fast but not 100% accurate.
Moreover, reports suggest that an automated accessibility scan can only detect 1 out of 4 WCAG accessibility issues. The majority of websites that are sued for digital accessibility violations have problematic webpages.
The underlying reason can be their reliance on evaluation tools. A testing tool is not a fail-proof method, thus human intervention is required.
Remember tools can make your website “more accessible” but none of the tools are efficient enough to make it “100% accessible”. It can only be done when human intervention is involved.
When you choose to publish a VPAT report for the WCAG edition. Relying on the software results is definitely not enough to attain WCAG Level AA compliance.
For instance, when testing all pages using evaluation tools for screen readers, you will only be able to find missing captions but human auditors to ensure that the available content also makes sense. An example can be a hyperlink which says “a link” in the caption. It can be missed during automated scans but an audit specialist would help you find all such links that need clear directives to the visually impaired users about where this “link” is going to redirect them.
Reduce accessibility barriers by letting third party auditors thoroughly evaluate your website. The idea is to not only aim for compliance and attain a proactive approach to attain the countless benefits of digital accessibility.
Want to learn more about what is a VPAT, and how to fill it out correctly? Speak to the audit experts at ADA Compliance Pros. They have more than 12 years of industry experience. Their team can help you ensure compliance with ADA and Section 508 with 100% satisfaction.