The digital accessibility industry is filled with various buzzwords, many of which seem to ebb and flow based on the most recent legal precedent, potential legislation, or the next iteration of potential compliance standards. Hearing the word VPAT with solid consistency over the past six months feels no different. It is synonymous with accessibility for those in the industry and has stood the test of time since it was first released in 2001.
However, for software and product providers, specifically, those offering their services in industries governed by Section 508, the VPAT has quickly become a must-have.
In this blog, we dive into an overview of what a VPAT is and why it is a critical component for software providers in driving new sales and customer renewals.
What is a VPAT?
VPAT stands for Voluntary Product Accessibility Template. At a baseline level, it is a document that provides information about a product’s compliance with accessibility standards.
The VPAT is designed to promote accessibility by providing detailed information on the product’s accessibility features, limitations, and even potential barriers leveraging assistive technology.
Who should obtain a VPAT?
Our professional recommendation is that every software vendor obtains a VPAT as quickly as possible – before the inability to present one prevents a key sale or customer renewal.
This includes those organizations that build software or digital products for the following industry verticals:
1 – Education: This vertical is where we see a VPAT considered a must-have. For any software provider that offers services to educational institutions, including K-12 schools, colleges, and universities, that are used by students, parents, or faculty, this is likely a hot-button item for your team (or should be).
In fact, many RFPs and Contract Renewals for institutions in this space now require all respondents or vendors to present a current VPAT.
2 – Public Sector: Due to Section 508 guidelines and Title II of the ADA, government and public sector websites and other digital properties are required to be WCAG Compliant. For many RFPs and, more recently, government contract renewals that include implementing third-party software that is consumer-facing or leveraged by internal employees, proof of solid accessibility and a product VPAT is generally required.
3 – Private Sector: The need for a VPAT for organizations offering their products to the private sector has expanded rapidly due to mitigating factors for their clients. In many cases, private sector organizations are no longer willing to exclude consumers with disabilities or assume the legal risk by implementing a third-party application that is not accessible.
This covers an extensive range of products, such as booking software for hospitality companies, mortgage calculators or application software for financial institutions, or even chatbots deployed in nearly every industry.
How a VPAT boosts sales
Ultimately, for many companies, the human interest element of providing equitable access is the driving force in building accessible products and confirming that through a 3rd party VPAT.
That said, ROI and sound business decisions for all things product development and internal resources are critical for software providers. The ROI of having a third-party accessibility audit leading to a VPAT could be realized, by many teams, quite quickly.
A single enterprise customer renewal or winning a six-figure plus RFP where a VPAT is required to win generally drives a positive ROI for almost any team.
Additionally, teams that do commit to accessibility and providing an accessible product should not shy away from leveraging that in growing their revenue generation efforts. By reviewing the VPAT for a product, sales teams can identify opportunities to target customers with specific accessibility needs. This can broaden the organization’s customer base and increase sales quickly.
A VPAT can also give a sales team a competitive advantage by demonstrating the organization’s commitment to accessibility and inclusivity. Customers are increasingly aware of the importance of accessibility and are more likely to choose products and services that are accessible and inclusive.
Finally, by providing detailed information about a product’s accessibility features, a sales team can build better relationships with customers, particularly those with disabilities. This can help to establish the organization as a trusted and reliable source of accessible technological solutions.
Help your consumers, customers, and sales team with a VPAT
In conclusion, a VPAT is valuable for organizations that want to create inclusive technology solutions. It promotes accessibility, compliance with legal requirements, and substantial competitive advantage.
Through a VPAT, organizations can build better customer relationships and create software solutions that work for everyone, which should always be the most critical underlying factor.