Documenting Web Accessibility: Do You Need a VPAT?
It has become increasingly common to find located in the footer of many websites a link to their Statement of Accessibility. In a few cases you will find some sites with a VPAT (Voluntary Product Accessibility Template) and Statement of Accessibility linked. What are these documents? What is their purpose and should your site have one or both?
VPAT vs. Statement of Accessibility
A Statement of Accessibility is a document that defines the current state of accessibility for a website. It provides an area where the site owner can let a user know they are working on the accessibility of their site and provide a method for the user to contact the site owner regarding accessibility issues.
A VPAT explains how a website, service or product meets the Revised 508 Standards, which refers to the law that requires that the federal government procure, create and maintain technology that is accessible, regardless of whether a particular site is actually a federal government site.
A Statement of Accessibility is a general statement on a site's accessibility and a declaration that the owner of the site is working to remediate any identified inaccessible features. A VPAT specifically notes any accessibility issues within a site as they relate to WCAG, Section 508 or even European accessibility guidelines.
The Statement of Accessibility has basically says "we are working on our accessibility and here is a way to contact us with questions," whereas VPAT lists all of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and whether the site is in compliance point by point. Here are examples of a VPAT and a Statement of Accessibility:
Often organizations are asked for their VPAT if they are receiving funds or working with the federal government in any capacity. It is Federal Government requirement to have a VPAT as part of the accessibility process. Creation of this document can be time consuming and requires a full accessibility audit.
Demonstration of Due Diligence
While these documents are similar in subject matter they are different in purpose. The Statement of Accessibility demonstrates to uses that you care about accessibility and the needs of those who require assistive technologies to access your content. It helps to provide the user with information about the accessibility of content and demonstrates a commitment to accessibility and the community the website serves.
The purpose of a VPAT can actually be more of a requirement than a voluntary statement. The VPAT is required for any business or service which fall under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, primarily those that do business with the federal government or receive government funds. The VPAT is intended to communicate to the wider procurement community the accessibility level or degree of conformance of the website, service, or product.
So should you add a Statement of Accessibility and a VPAT to your site? While neither of these documents are guaranteed to protect your organization from legal action, they do help show that your organization is aware of any accessibility issues and is working to resolve them. It is appropriate to add a VPAT if there is any chance your organization will be subject to Section 508 regulations.
VPATs can take considerable time to create and if the need is there, it is advisable to have one in place.
Looking for clarification concerning whether your website requires a Statement of Accessibility and/or a VPAT? We’re happy to help and if necessary, move forward with pursuing this documentation. Contact us today.