Voluntary Product Accessibility Template

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A Voluntary Product Accessibility Template® (VPAT®) is a table containing information regarding how an information and communications technology (ICT) product or service conforms with Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (29 U.S.C. § 794 (d)). Section 508 provides guidelines for rendering ICT accessible to, and therefore usable by, people with limited capacities to see, hear, or exercise muscular control (aka disabilities). Although originally intended as a tool to facilitate government market research on ICT with accessible features, the VPAT has come to be viewed by the wider procurement community as a conformance report.

The rows of a VPAT table address different aspects of ICT products. The rows are grouped into sections addressing, for example, whether a mouse or keyboard are required to control the software; when images or colors are needed to understand the software; when text alternatives to images are available; and so forth. A VPAT table has three columns. The first column identifies subsections of Section 508, the second characterizes features of the product or site relevant to that subsection, and the third column has remarks and explanations.[1]

Legal status and history[edit]

The template is a registered service mark of the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI).[2][3] This may affect its proper use in text, and who has permission to use the template. The term is commonly used in procurement discussions of compliance or conformance with Section 508.

The VPAT® was developed by ITI in partnership with the U.S. government's central procurement office, the General Services Administration, starting in 2001 to address the general issue of matching ICT product features to Section 508 accessibility requirements with a checklist.[4] Characteristically a U.S. government office will require a VPAT to state the accessibility attributes of a product, but will not have enough time or information to examine the truthfulness of every line, and will not require perfect accessibility by all possible users.[4] For example, a tool to be used only by few specialized software developers might be acquired even if its accessibility features are limited, whereas a widely used public web site will have to meet higher standards. The agency may make choices about what to require.

October 4, 2017, ITI published an updated version, VPAT 2.0, reflecting the provisions of the newly-published Revised Section 508. In addition, VPAT 2.0 will incorporate provisions relative to the European ICT accessibility standards for public sector procurement, EN 301 549, and the W3C® WCAG 2.0 web content accessibility guidelines.

Example VPATs[edit]

VPATs® cover a wide array of products, including computer software, imaging hardware, and services. ITI provides recommendations for completing VPATs but, ultimately, manufacturers and suppliers are responsible for the clarity, completeness, and usefulness of the content contained in the report.

References[edit]

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