Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) - an emerging standard for Section 508 Compliance documentation

In 2001, the Information Technology Industry Council partnered with the General Services Administration to create a tool that would assist Federal contracting and procurement officials in fulfilling the market research requirements specified in Section 508 (governing the accessiblity of Web sites and software applications to disabled users). The result of their collaboration was the 508 Evaluation Template – a simple, web-based checklist that allows Vendors to document how their product did or did not meet the various Section 508 Requirements.

Today, I finally got around to producing a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) document that defines our committment to Section 508, which I've blogged about many times. Recently, we have seen versions of the VPAT attached to several RFPs from various federal agencies and public institutions, so it appears to be heading towards becoming a standard first step for 508 Compliance evaluation.

Now we are at the point with Section 508 compliance where we were in 2001 with PCI compliance (self-assessment). Over time, I expect that we and others in our industry will move towards fully-audited compliance and independent reports for Section 508, as we now have with PCI level 1 compliance.


Tom said...

The use of VPATs is definitely increasing. Recently I have noticed the State of California paying more attention to it. But most importantly, I believe VPATs are becoming more useful tools, not just an item on the checklist when selling to the government.

Rick Borry said...

Thanks for the comment Tom,

I agree with you that the VPAT is a useful tool for first-pass verification of Section 508 compliance - beyond its value to purchasing departments. I expect this will lead to more formal certifications and independent audits, similar to how Visa's early cardholder secruity self-assessments led to the current PCI standards industry.