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Creating A Section 508 Accessible Site – VPAT Accessibility

by Mohamed Ali
Creating A Section 508 Accessible Site - VPAT Accessibility

Civil rights of the disabled population are protected by US Law. Earlier policies were only focused on accessibility in physical spaces, later, the digital landscape was also added to the list of laws.

In this digitally inclined world, it is indeed important for lawmakers to understand the barriers of technology, websites and devices. Therefore, frameworks like VPAT Accessibility are now being used to improve the digital experience of the disabled.

How Does Section 508 Protect Digital Accessibility Rights?

Section 508 is an amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It defines that people with cognitive difficulties, limited mobility, and hearing or vision loss must be able to access technology.

Law prohibits discrimination based on technological advancements. The principles suggest that the technology design must be inclusive. Therefore, a Section has been amended to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to ensure that technology and devices used by the government don’t incorporate any accessibility barriers.

In simple words, Section 508 includes certain accessibility principles related to software, hardware, website, telephone, mobile applications and multimedia. The federal government is legally required to only source technology and communication products that comply with Section 508 and a method to prove the compliance is Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT).

What Is VPAT Compliance?

The technical standards that are outlined in Section 508 can be tested using the VPAT template. Although Section 508 is only a legal requirement for federal departments and federally funded agencies, private sector organizations are also inclined toward VPAT compliance.

Every business organization can consider getting the VPAT certification because of the endless benefits:

  • Competitive edge: Ensuring digital accessibility makes you a preferred vendor. Brands would like to collaborate with a business that is accountable and strives to meet the expectations of the disabled population.
  • SEO benefits: Every business, small or large, competes on the digital forefront to attract customers. Your potential customers can easily see if you adhere to VPAT compliance standards. Google loves digital accessibility outlines and if your business is compliant it can rank at the top of search engines.
  • Business benefits: Developing an accessible website or ensuring barrier free access to technology allows you to sell your products and offerings to a large segment of the target audience. More than one-fourth of the US population is disabled. If you consider making amendments based on the needs of the disabled, it can be linked to higher traffic, better lead generation and sales and profitability.

How Do You Attain Section 508 Compliance?

To ensure accessibility VPATcompliance, you need to begin with the checklist provided with the template.

If you are not sure how to assess your website using the VPAT checklist, you can begin with website accessibility tests with help of audit specialists.

What’s Included In The VPAT 508 Checklist?

VPAT is a self-declaration of information about the accessibility standards of the technology and communication products that your brand offers.

The guidelines that pertain to the digital accessibility standards are categorized into three different editions of VPAT.

Each edition provides criteria or an accessibility outline to test your compliance. Based on the information you provide, you can generate a product accessibility report or properly known as Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR).

VPAT checklist includes principles of WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines), Section 508, and EN 301 549 by the European Union.

How To Conduct Website Accessibility Audits?

There are plenty of web accessibility checkers that can be used to understand the violations. Althoughsoftware scans are useful to evaluate a website based on a technical perspective, you can’t make a website entirely VPAT compliant by relying on these automated scans. Therefore, human intervention is required.

Audit specialists conduct manual testing and provide more accurate assessments against the VPAT checklist. Consider hiring a third party accessibility specialist. The experts can help you find the problem areas and remediation to create a Section 508 accessible website.

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