Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates (VPATs) and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are terms used in the digital accessibility industry. Both are crucial for defining product accessibility and usability for all consumers, regardless of ability.
This blog post defines these terms and shows the similarities and differences between the two.
What is a VPAT?
VPAT stands for Voluntary Product Accessibility Template; it is a document that provides information on the level of accessibility a digital product or software offers to people with disabilities.
A VPAT informs individuals about a digital product’s compliance with accessibility standards. Its purpose is to enhance accessibility by offering in-depth details on the product’s accessibility features, restrictions, and any possible obstacles related to assistive technology.
To learn more about VPATs, you might want to check out our in-depth article: What is a VPAT, and why is it so important?
Here at Allyant, we recommend that any software vendor, especially those that offer their products to the education and healthcare industries or the public sector, obtain a VPAT as soon as possible to document accessibility compliance.
Why do I need a VPAT?
In many cases, it has become commonplace for enterprise and Title II organizations to require a VPAT or documentation of accessibility conformance through their software procurement processes.
For a digital solutions provider, the ROI of obtaining a VPAT is quite simple – it will lead to more sales opportunities or wins by avoiding being blocked in the procurement process for not having an accessible solution or roadmap to build accessibility downstream. It can also give a business a competitive advantage by showing an organizational commitment to accessibility and inclusivity – even if not explicitly required – as this could be a key differentiator from your competition.
It also ensures product managers can effectively roadmap accessibility remediation into upcoming development sprints and product releases, resulting in a more usable and equitable product experience for people with disabilities.
When a user with a disability can interact with your digital product, you open up your market opportunity and generate repeat customers who appreciate (and deserve) an equitable experience.
WCAG vs VPAT: Difference and Similarity
Unlike a VPAT, the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) is not a physical document. Instead, WCAG is a set of web accessibility standards and success criteria to test against to ensure a website or digital product is accessible.
WCAG has four general principles, guidelines for each principle, and testable success criteria for each guideline.
However, a VPAT and the WCAG Guidelines are directly intertwined. A VPAT notes whether a product conforms to each of the specific WCAG guidelines (either 2.0 or 2.1, depending on the level of conformance the vendor is aiming to report on).
For example, a VPAT outlines “This product supports all non-text content with text alternatives” when addressing WCAG 1.1.1 or “there are instances of text not meeting the contrast minimum requirements” for WCAG 1.4.3.
Within a VPAT, each guideline will be assessed and define whether the product supports, partially supports, or does not support conformance to each success criterion.
For this reason, a VPAT should always be performed after a thorough assessment or audit of the product in question.
Allyant can help with VPATs
Since a VPAT is “voluntary,” it can be created in-house or with the help of a third party. Allyant has helped hundreds of organizations develop VPATs and update them regularly to show continuous improvement and accessibility conformance to their customers. After our thorough expert audit of your organization’s product or software, we will use the audit report to complete the VPAT. We will then send your organization the completed document to download and share publicly with your customers as needed.
Working with a third party such as Allyant to write VPATs has numerous benefits. Specifically, working with an external vendor specializing in web accessibility will ensure the organizations you are providing your VPAT to that the product has been looked at through an expert lens, adding significant credibility.
It also helps ensure objectivity and accuracy when VPATs are written by outside firms rather than within organizations. Many of our clients now require a 3rd Party VPAT from software and digital products within their procurement processes or have us assess the VPAT’s validity on their behalf.
Allyant has assisted numerous organizations in creating and maintaining VPATs to demonstrate their continuous dedication to digital accessibility. Our expert auditing team has extensive knowledge of the WCAG and its success criteria.
Please fill out the form below, and we’ll be in touch about any questions regarding VPATs, the WCAG, or digital accessibility generally!