What You Need to Know About VPAT Assessments

Accessibility in today’s digital landscape stands as a fundamental pillar of creating an inclusive and equitable environment for all users. Ensuring that technology and products are accessible to individuals with diverse abilities has become a cornerstone of ethical responsibility and legal compliance in many countries, including the United States. 

The Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) assessment plays a pivotal role in evaluating a product’s adherence to accessibility standards, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). This comprehensive guide aims to illuminate the essence of VPAT assessments, elucidating their significance, conducting thorough evaluations, implementing improvements, and fostering ongoing compliance. 

Understanding VPAT assessments is integral for organizations striving to meet regulatory requirements, expand market reach, and embody an ethos of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Delving into this guide will provide a comprehensive understanding of the intricacies involved in conducting and leveraging VPAT assessments to enhance accessibility for diverse user groups.

Importance and Benefits:

Meeting accessibility standards is legally mandated in various countries, notably the United States, particularly for entities engaging in federal contracts or serving government agencies. Legislation like Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires digital products and services to adhere to accessibility guidelines. Compliance ensures equitable access for individuals with disabilities, aligning with anti-discrimination laws. 

Entities failing to meet these standards risk legal repercussions and may be ineligible for government contracts. Upholding accessibility not only abides by the law but also demonstrates an organization’s commitment to social responsibility, fostering a more inclusive and equitable society.

User Experience and Market Reach

Prioritizing accessibility enhancements in products significantly enhances the user experience for individuals with disabilities. By accommodating diverse needs, it extends the reach of products to a broader demographic, promoting inclusivity. These improvements cater to a wider audience, fostering a more welcoming and user-friendly environment. A commitment to accessibility not only fulfills legal and ethical obligations but also expands market potential by tapping into a sizable consumer base. 

Empowering users of varying abilities enhance brand loyalty and positive sentiment, reflecting a dedication to providing equitable experiences for all, thereby solidifying the product’s reputation and market relevance in an increasingly diverse consumer landscape.

Reputation and Brand Image

Demonstrating a commitment to accessibility not only fosters an inclusive environment but also signifies a company’s dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Prioritizing accessibility initiatives showcases an organization’s ethos of embracing diversity, and ensuring equal access to all individuals. 

This commitment reflects positively on the company’s reputation, emphasizing its values of inclusivity and social responsibility. Such dedication not only enriches the user experience for individuals with disabilities but also resonates positively with customers, partners, and stakeholders. Ultimately, integrating accessibility into business practices reinforces a culture of equity, fostering goodwill and trust within the community.

Conducting a VPAT Assessment:

Identifying the Product Scope

In the realm of software development and accessibility compliance, thorough documentation serves as the cornerstone for successful implementation and user satisfaction. Precisely defining the product or conducting VPAT assessments is crucial, encompassing its diverse versions and supported platforms. This includes outlining the product’s functionalities, features, and variants across different iterations or releases. Additionally, identifying the platforms where the product operates, such as web, mobile, or desktop environments, is essential. 

Detailing specific versions, updates, or modifications ensures a comprehensive evaluation of accessibility across the product’s entire spectrum. This comprehensive scope aids in assessing and addressing accessibility issues more effectively, ensuring that all iterations and platforms uphold inclusive design principles for users with varying abilities.

Assessment Criteria

Assessing the product’s compliance with defined accessibility standards, such as WCAG 2.1, involves a comprehensive examination across multiple dimensions. This evaluation scrutinizes aspects like content, ensuring it’s perceivable, understandable, and robust for assistive technologies. Functionality assessment focuses on operability and compatibility with various devices. 

Navigation appraisal ensures ease of use for all users, especially those with disabilities. Compatibility checks encompass multiple browsers and assistive technologies, ensuring seamless interaction. This thorough examination across these facets helps identify areas of non-compliance, enabling targeted improvements to enhance overall accessibility and ensure alignment with established standards for a more inclusive user experience.


Generating a comprehensive report stemming from the assessment findings is crucial. This report outlines identified accessibility barriers and offers detailed improvement recommendations. It articulates specific issues hindering accessibility, delineates their impact, and suggests viable remedies. By providing a roadmap for enhancement, complete with prioritized actions and potential solutions, this report guides teams in addressing deficiencies methodically.

It serves as a reference document, aiding stakeholders in implementing necessary changes to align the product with established accessibility standards, fostering a more inclusive and user-centric design approach. Regular updates and revisions to the report facilitate continual improvement and sustained adherence to accessibility principles.

Implementing Accessibility Improvements:

Action Plan

Creating an action plan derived from the VPAT assessment is essential to tackle identified accessibility gaps effectively. The plan should delineate specific strategies and timelines for resolving issues outlined in the assessment. Prioritizing these areas ensures a systematic approach to enhancing accessibility, encompassing tasks such as code remediation, design adjustments, or user interface refinements. 

Clear objectives, allocated responsibilities, and defined milestones within the action plan facilitate a structured path toward achieving compliance with accessibility standards. Regular reviews and progress assessments further refine the plan, ensuring a comprehensive resolution of accessibility issues for a more inclusive and user-friendly product.

Incorporating Accessibility in Design and Development

Embedding accessibility considerations within the product’s design and development processes is pivotal for maintaining continual compliance. By incorporating accessibility from the project’s inception, teams can proactively identify and address potential barriers, ensuring that the final product aligns with established accessibility standards. 

This approach fosters a culture of inclusivity, making it easier to implement necessary adjustments and enhancements throughout the development lifecycle. Regular audits, user testing, and adherence to accessibility best practices enable sustained compliance, creating a more universally accessible product and fostering a positive user experience for individuals of diverse abilities.

VPAT Assessments: The More You Know

A VPAT assessment is an indispensable tool for evaluating and improving the accessibility of technology products. Understanding VPATs, conducting thorough assessments, and implementing accessibility improvements are crucial steps toward ensuring compliance with accessibility standards and creating more inclusive and equitable digital experiences for all users. 

Organizations should prioritize accessibility not only for compliance but also as a fundamental aspect of their commitment to diversity and user-centric design.