- Rob Carr, Strategic Accessibility Coordinator, WebAIM
- Length of Session: 1-hr
- Format: Lecture
- Expertise Level: Intermediate
- Type of session: General Conference
The Voluntary Product Accessibility Template, or VPAT, is used widely during technology purchase and use decisions. However, the way that it is used varies quite a bit. Join me to talk through ways to make the VPAT a more effective tool for you when you next seek to purchase. We’ll talk through the critical vendor-specific information as well as the technical side. And we will discuss when and what to ask when we need more information than we first receive.
The Voluntary Product Accessibility Template, or VPAT, is a very common tool. We use it to evaluate accessibility in a third-party vendor’s product or platform. The fact that the vendors are responsible for testing and documenting results in the VPAT does introduce some nuance, though.
For that and other reasons, the VPAT’s reputation suffers. Is it really the fault of the VPAT in and of itself, though, that information is often incomplete, inaccurate, or out of date? Or, can we identify ways to make the VPAT a more reliable instrument by adjusting how we integrate it into our technology purchasing and use decisions?
In this session we’re going to get into the weeds of doing a thorough vetting of a VPAT. We’re not skipping ahead to the specific technical criteria in a VPAT, either. We’re going to lean into the information that a vendor provides from the very beginning. We will discuss how we can use the VPAT not only to evaluate technical conformance to standards, but also to evaluate a vendor’s ability to improve or maintain accessibility over time.
The session will address the need for more than one round of review of a VPAT. We will also discuss the potential to build a conversation around the VPAT that has additional measures we can use to help us as we evaluate products and the vendors that provide them.
We will examine sample, publicly available VPATs and compare the content that vendors provide. We will identify items that do and that do not require a technical or accessibility-aware reviewer. And we will discuss the kinds of questions we need to ask and answers we need to expect to make the VPAT a much more effective evaluation tool.
The primary goals of the session are to help you to strengthen the VPAT and, indeed, to lean on current and future vendor partners a bit more than is common. Finally, the session will help you to identify process changes that can help to share the work of vetting a VPAT and bolster its efficacy at the same time.
- The VPAT serves as the centerpiece for many organizations’ accounting for accessibility in procurement.
- Key components of the VPAT need more attention from vendors and purchasers
- Specific and detailed inquiry is often required to ensure that a VPAT is accurate, up to date, and thorough
Rob Carr, CPACC is the Strategic Accessibility Coordinator at WebAIM. Rob has been in the digital accessibility space since 2010. He has spent loads of time training, consulting, and learning about digital accessibility topics large and small. Rob has worked with thousands of individuals and dozens of organizations on everything from accessibility in a single PDF to integrating accessibility into organizations’ digital strategies. Rob presents at national conferences, organizes the occasional conference, and tries to be more active and less snarky on LinkedIn.