Accessibility Tip of the Week

Before you buy (part one)...

  • Summary: Ask about a VPAT when you purchase a digital product.
  • Who it helps: Your employees and customers with disabilities.
  • Additional benefits: Buying accessible up front saves your organization time and money in the long run.

When you buy a website, software, platform or other digital service, it is important to include accessibility as a requirement for that purchase. The first step is to ask if a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) is available.

If a VPAT is available, look at the following details:

  1. Check who performed the VPAT for the vendor. Ideally, a third-party with accessibility expertise completed it.
    • If it’s not a third-party, ask the vendor if they have personnel who are dedicated to accessibility and are regularly updating their VPATs.
    • Ask to see a copy of the test plan they used.
  2. Check the date on the evaluation. Ideally, VPATs are updated every time the product (or platform) is updated or on an annual basis. If the VPAT is more than a year old, it may not be relevant.
  3. Check the results. Each success criteria in a VPAT can be graded as one of four possible conformance levels:
    • Supports
    • Partially Supports
    • Does not Support
    • Not Applicable

Often, a checkpoint in the VPAT will be marked “Partially Supports.” It should then include details about what is supported and and not supported in the Remarks and Explanations. Consider the importance of the parts of the interface that are not accessible. If no remarks and explanations are provided, ask about these. Occasionally, success criteria are marked “Partially Supports” when in reality, they should be marked as “Does not Support”.

We recommend reading How to Interpret a VPAT from Harvard University and How to tell if a VPAT is reasonable in ten minutes or less from Accessibility Oz to learn more about VPATs.

This work is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0    .

If you are promoting accessibility within your organization or community, sending out easy-to-understand tips can be a helpful addition to your strategy. You are welcome to share the tips here under the mentioned Creative Commons license, as long as you cite Accessible Community as your source.