Georgia Tech Research Institute

What are best practices associated with creating Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates (VPATs)?

The Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) developed the VPAT, and they have developed some "best practices" for completing it. The complete list of best practices can be obtained from ITI's website. The VPAT template is available from this website as well.

The VPAT should provide a fair representation of the product's accessibility. Providing explanations of both how the product conforms to the Section 508 standards and areas for which it doesn't will demonstrate your understanding of the requirements as well as your reliability in providing an accurate representation of the accessibility of your products; this may work in your favor when procurement officials review your VPATs.

When completing the summary table, the Supporting Features column should list "Not applicable" for those standards that do not apply to the product in question, and "Supports," "Supports with exceptions," or "Does not support" for those standards that do apply. It is best to complete the summary table after completing the individual tables for each standard. In the summary table, the Remarks and Explanations column can list highlights of the supporting data or can simply say, "See table below." Recommendations for standardized language are available in the best practices documentation found at ITI's website.

When completing the individual tables, the same recommended language should be used in the Supporting Features column, and the Remarks and Explanations column should list the issues (provide specific examples, when available) that contributed to the assessment of how well the product supports the standard. Once the individual tables are completed, you may consider transferring the language that describes the least accessible features in the individual tables to the summary table. For example, if the table for 1194.31 contains assessments for "Fully supports" and "Supports with exceptions," put "Supports with exceptions" in the summary table. Also, when making the assessment for each individual standard, carefully consider the impact of the exceptions to the standard on the comprehensive accessibility of the product. For example, if the product is a photocopier that requires use of a touchscreen to operate fully, list the touchscreen as an exception to the standard (1194.25(c)), rate the standard as "Supports with exceptions," and indicate that the touchscreen will prevent users who are blind from using the device. It is useful to provide specifics about disability groups that will be most impacted by the lack of accessible features.

Lastly, it is useful for companies to include information about the accessibility of product documentation on their VPATs. While compliance with the Section 508 documentation standards is the responsibility of the procuring agency, any product documentation a company can provide that meets the standards will assist the procuring agency in meeting its requirements. All other things being equal, a procuring agency may use availability of accessible documentation as a deciding factor in determining which product to procure.