Do You Need an Accessibility Statement or a VPAT Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR)?

What is an accessibility statement?

An accessibility statement is customized public information that communicates an organization’s internal accessibility policies, accessibility goals, and past successes in serving and working with people with disabilities.

Many forward-thinking organizations create accessibility statements in order to better meet the needs of the significant disability market. Customers with disabilities may be unaware of your behind-the-scenes efforts to make your products and services accessible unless you communicate these efforts. An accessibility statement helps you do just that.

The importance of an accessibility statement

An accessibility statement signals your compliance with the existing accessibility laws, regulations, and policies. This includes compliance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), or the European Union’s EN 301 549 accessibility requirements for public procurement of ICT products and services in Europe, among others.

Section 508 requires federal agencies to procure ICT that is accessible to people with disabilities, whether or not they work for the federal government.

A published accessibility statement may, therefore, be necessary in order to comply with the legislation. Businesses that want to be listed in the federal government’s Vendor Accessibility Resource Center, for example, must provide a link to their Section 508 expertise and compliance online accessibility statement.

A Section 508 accessibility statement clearly outlines the ways in which an organization or business is adhering to the legal requirements underpinning accessibility.

What is included in an accessibility statement?

An accessibility statement usually lists the laws and standards, as well as the levels of these standards, that an organization is committed to following. For example, an organization may include the WCAG 2.0 or 2.1 accessibility guidelines for websites and web-based products and services. An organization may also state its intention to comply with Section 508 or the ADA, among others, when creating its accessibility statement.

An accessibility statement should also include the accessibility measures that an organization has put in place, the conformance status of the organization’s products and services, compatibility with browsers and assistive technology as appropriate, the date the accessibility statement was created, and the feedback address.

Some accessibility statements are usually brief and only cover a few legislative references. When a business goes above and beyond these basic requirements, it establishes its brand as welcoming to customers with disabilities. It also improves the organization’s online experience, which is why businesses should view accessibility statements as an opportunity to market themselves as fully inclusive rather than as a requirement.

An accessibility statement or a VPAT ACR?

While accessibility statement is usually sufficient in demonstrating an organization’s compliance with the existing accessibility laws, regulations, and policies, every ICT product or service must have a VPAT ACR for it to be procurable publicly in various jurisdictions.

For your ICT products or services to be procurable by the federal agencies, for example, you need an accurately and completely filled out VPAT. Section 508 compliance statements may improve your business’s online experience and demonstrate to customers that your brands embrace everyone, including people with disabilities; however, without VPAT compliance, the products or services will not be considered during federal agencies’ procurement processes.

Even if you have created and made an accessibility statement available, VPAT compliance is critical. This is because these two self-disclosures are valuable to a business or organization because while an accessibility statement says, “We are working to improve the accessibility of our products or services,” a VPAT ACR says, “We have already undergone a VPAT assessment for our products and services in compliance with Section 508, the WCAG, or the European Union’s EN 301 549 accessibility standards.”

What is VPAT compliance?

VPAT compliance is an ecosystem of processes and actions that leads to clear documentation that assists businesses and organizations in measuring and demonstrating the conformance of digital products and services to established accessibility standards by using the appropriate VPAT template.

According to ADA Compliance Pros, the primary goal of VPAT compliance is to make digital products and services comply with the ADA, Section 508, WCAG, and/or the EU’s EN 301 549 accessibility standards. It begins with selecting the appropriate edition of the VPAT to use in testing the accessibility of a product or service and ends with making the VPAT report generated as a result of the testing accessible to anyone who wants to review it.

The importance of a VPAT report

Both accessibility statements and VPAT ACRs are required for an organization or business to positively position their brand as one that is committed to accessibility, as well as to increase opportunities to partner with the federal government and other public and private buyers of accessible digital products and services.

A VPAT report helps buyers of digital products and services make informed decisions before purchasing the products or services, as well as compare the compliance of similar products or services. It also enables businesses and organizations to introspect regarding the accessibility features of their products or services, which encourages them to improve the accessibility and quality of the products or services.

Need assistance with creating your VPAT ACR or accessibility statement?

A VPAT ACR and an accessibility statement are both serious documents that demand a thorough audit of the associated product or service. You need both of them to enhance your brand: one that is committed to accessibility and one with products and services that are ready to be procured publicly.

If you need assistance creating a VPAT ACR or writing an accessibility statement, you can review this VPAT report example or call (626) 486-2201 to schedule a consultation at a time that is convenient for you. We offer free consultations!

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