What is a VPAT
The VPAT is not a form that you fill out. The vendor or publisher should have a VPAT readily available to send you. If the vendor is a publisher, contact your customer service rep (usually the person you order desk copies of your textbooks from). If the LTI is not associated with a publishing company, contact the vendor’s customer support or a service rep to request the VPAT. You may also be able to find an LTI's VPAT online by performing a Google search. Many companies have their product’s VPAT posted online.
A properly completed VPAT should break down everything that a company is doing regarding product accessibility at a significant level of detail, proving both that they are providing the best possible user experience for everyone involved. The document rates the product with the following levels:
- Supports - This means that the product either meets all the specific factors dictated by the Revised Section 508 Standards in a very literal way, or that the same goals are accomplished by way of “an equivalent facilitation.”
- Partially Supports - As the term suggests, this means that the majority of the criteria in the Revised Section 508 Standards, but there may still be certain “known defects” (things they have to work on) that are present.
- Does Not Support - This describes a situation where the majority of the product’s functionality does not meet the Revised Section 508 Standards in any way, shape or form.
The following are some RED FLAGS – indications that a VPAT may not meet requirements:
- Cells with no content (in the table section) - Each cell should have content. If a product meets a requirement, there must be a description on how this is achieved. If a product does not meet a requirement or only partially meets a requirement then this must also be described in detail.
- Terminology such as “Passes” and “Fails” - The standard terminology for a VPAT is “Supports,” “Partially Supports” and “Does Not Support.” If a VPAT does not use this terminology then the author is not an accessibility specialist. As an audit of the product must be conducted prior to the development of a VPAT, if the author is not an accessibility specialist then this does not bode well.
- A lot of “NAs” - Many VPATs say “NA” instead of “Does Not Support.” Only when a product does not have a feature can the specification “NA” be used. For example, if a VPAT for a video player specifies “NA” for the Captions requirement, then that would be a red flag.
- All “Supports” - It is very unlikely that the product is completely accessible, especially if the VPAT contains other red flags.
- One VPAT for multiple products - There should be one VPAT per product. Having a single VPAT for multiple products makes tracking requirements that are not supported very difficult.
- An inaccurate or unclear description of the product - This often means that the VPAT author does not know the product. Therefore, any accessibility assessment of the product will be flawed.
- The Notes section states that the VPAT does not cover essential features - An example of this would be a VPAT for a CMS that specifically excluded the WYSIWG editor, or a VPAT for a website that does not cover the registration process.
- The VPAT is dated more than 12 months or more ago - VPATs should be updated when a product is updated. A VPAT that is more than 12 months old may not be representative of the current product.
- No details of testing undertaken (the “Evaluation methods used” section) - The Section 508 Refresh added this section to the VPAT, and it is an excellent indication of whether the VPAT author has expertise in accessibility, as well as whether an accessibility audit has been undertaken.
- “Evaluation Methods” only lists automated testing - Automated testing tools can only test approximately 30% of all errors; if an audit consists only of automated testing then the accessibility compliance cannot be accurately judged.
- Contact information is missing or inaccurate - This is an indication that accessibility is not a priority with the vendor. They may have employed someone to assist in the accessibility of the product, but if that person has left and has not been replaced then the accessibility compliance of the product is likely to deteriorate.
- “Not evaluated” in the Level A or Level AA section - This means that this product wasn’t tested. Often, VPAT authors specify this instead of having to put “Does Not Support”. Wherever there is “Not evaluated” in the Level A or AA section, read this as “Does Not Support.”
What Does a Good VPAT Look Like
- Has explanations for all criteria
- Uses conventional wording such as “Supports,” “Partially Supports,” “Does Not Support” and “Not applicable”
- Stands up to questioning
- Has been written by someone other than the product vendor
- Has a clear description of the product, including associated features
- Refers to existing accessibility testing tools in the testing undertaken
What if an LTI doesn’t have a VPAT?
The vast majority of LTI developers/vendors already have a VPAT on hand for anyone who requests it. This is an expectation placed upon them from federal and state regulators. The District will not do business with any LTI that doesn't have a VPAT available to share.