Compliance

Give me a VPAT with that BLT

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BLT sandwich

Hands up if you know what a VPAT is. Although the concept of accessibility is pretty familiar these days, some of its acronyms are not.

Even if you can tell me that VPAT® stands for Voluntary Product Accessibility Template®, chances are you could use some help writing or interpreting one. At least, that’s the conclusion reached by US federal agencies, who asked the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) for new training videos on these important templates, which are used to report a product’s accessibility. The agencies were finding widespread inconsistencies in how accessibility was being reported and understood.

Even if you can tell me that VPAT® stands for Voluntary Product Accessibility Template®, chances are you could use some help writing or interpreting one. At least, that’s the conclusion reached by US federal agencies, who asked the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) for new training videos on these important templates, which are used to report a product’s accessibility. The agencies were finding widespread inconsistencies in how accessibility was being reported and understood.

ITI, who created and owns the copyright for VPATs, recently released a set of training modules to help. The videos give a background on VPATs, and then cover how a company uses a VPAT to produce a document called an Accessibility Conformance Report (yet another acronym, ACR). Consumers and procurers then use ACRs to find out if a product meets their accessibility needs and compare competing products’ accessibility support. They can then make more informed purchasing decisions.

So what does all this have to do with a BLT sandwich? The VPAT training consists of eight brief video modules. This means anyone can learn a single topic in a short time, like while you’re lunching on a BLT. The list of topics include:

  • Module 1: Introduction  (14 mins) provides background and history of the VPAT and its uses.
  • Module 2: Preparing to write the ACR (8 mins) gives basics on who should supply the compliance information and when in a product life cycle to create an ACR. This module also covers the required information and valid conformance levels.
  • Module 3: WCAG (25 mins) covers the basics about WCAG, how other standards apply WCAG to non-web technologies, and how to report compliance to WCAG 2.x criteria using the VPAT.
  • Module 4: Section 508 (25 mins) gives the basics on Section 508 for U.S. federal procurement and helps you determine what requirements apply, and need to be completed in the ACR based on your product’s functionality. 
  • Module 5: EN 301 549 (18 mins) provides an overview of the content and uses of this European Union standard. It breaks down how to apply the requirements to various technologies based on their functionality.
  • Module 6: What makes a good ACR? (16 mins) emphasizes what must be completed in an ACR and what information is most helpful to ACR readers so they can understand the accessibility level, issues and impact to users. Good and bad examples illustrate these recommendations.
  • Module 7: Your ACR is filled out…What’s next? (8 mins) overviews a number of considerations: making product ACRs available to customers, keeping up-to-date on new VPAT versions, and what the versions of the standards contained in the various VPAT versions published since 2017.
  • Module 8: ACR readers and evaluators (21 mins) will help procurement and consumers understand whether a received ACR covers the right standards and is current enough to compare with competing products. Its guidance will help you determine the impact of reported defects on different disabilities.

As a member of the committee that developed and delivered this free training, I hope vendors and procurers find the information helpful to understand and effectively use the VPAT, identify applicable accessibility requirements, and report on the accessibility compliance of the products they develop.

I encourage you to include the VPAT training in your upcoming lunch-and-learn sessions. You can find the VPAT training modules on the ITI YouTube Channel and the VPAT training presentation decks in Dropbox. 

It’s time for lunch in my part of the world. I think I’ll grab some tomatoes from my garden and make a BLT.


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