A Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) is a document that provides information about a product’s compliance with accessibility standards. Learn more about what a VPAT is and why it is essential for accessibility.
Any organization can complete its own VPAT, but should they? Or is it better to have a third party do it for them?
There are several reasons why a third party might be best suited to complete this document on behalf of an organization – a path most software providers take.
1. Expertise in Digital Accessibility
Perhaps above all, an external vendor that specializes specifically in digital accessibility can bring a level of experience and niche expertise to the process of completing a VPAT.
This can ensure that the document is comprehensive and accurate and that all relevant accessibility standards and guidelines are considered. Many internal teams have a baseline understanding of WCAG Compliance but lack niche expertise in this core competency.
Additionally, any strong third-party vendor will include people with disabilities (i.e., native screen reader engineers) in their assessment of the product to help ensure accuracy for a broader user base – which is the ultimate goal of providing a VPAT.
2. Objectivity and Accuracy
Organizations that require a VPAT from their software vendors often request it be executed by an outside firm for this very reason. Going through the process of having an external vendor complete this document provides an objective assessment of a product’s accessibility, free from any biases or conflicts of interest that may arise from an organization completing the VPAT themselves.
When completed and documented by an expert accessibility vendor, the team obtaining the VPAT can help establish credibility and trust with customers and stakeholders, which can give them a unique advantage in competitive situations.
3. Cost Considerations
For many organizations (both large and small), it is generally not cost-effective to maintain an internal accessibility team with the skills and expertise to complete an accurate VPAT.
By outsourcing this task, organizations save time and resources while ensuring their products are accessible, which is the ultimate goal.
4. Compliance Requirements
There are certain scenarios where regulations or laws may require a third-party assessment of a product’s accessibility to ensure compliance. For many organizations, simply having a VPAT completed by an external vendor and expert in digital accessibility allows them to deploy it more broadly across their customer base.
It’s the best solution when an organization is required to provide a VPAT to a customer in a highly regulated scenario.
5. Industry Standards and Trends
When a leading third-party accessibility vendor is leveraged, these teams will have access to the latest industry standards and guidelines, which can ensure that a product meets the most current accessibility requirements.
Third-party accessibility vendors can effectively communicate industry trends to help your team leverage the VPAT and even drive new sales opportunities. This can establish an organization as a leader in accessibility and demonstrate a commitment to providing inclusive technology solutions.
In conclusion, if you are a software provider for any number of industries, your customers and sales team will likely be asking for a VPAT soon if they have not already. While an organization can complete its own VPAT, there are several reasons why an external accessibility vendor should be considered to perform this task.