As educational entities consider the accessibility of electronic and information technology products before purchasing, they are faced with a challenge: How can they reasonably assess whether a product is accessible? One step worth taking is to identify whether the producer has voluntarily provided information about the accessibility of their products. Many vendors have done so with a simple, standard web-based template known as the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template™, or VPAT™.
The VPAT was developed by the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) in partnership with the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). Its purpose is to assist federal contracting and procurement officials in fulfilling the market research requirements contained within the Section 508 implementation regulations that require that federal agencies consider accessibility when they procure electronic and information technology.
Electronic and information technology companies are encouraged to routinely produce VPATs, post them on their company websites, and link them to GSA's Buy Accessible website. As of June 2004, over six hundred products were featured in the "Buy Accessible" database.
Even companies that do not sell their electronic and information technology products to the federal government should be encouraged to use the VPAT as a starting point for evaluating their products' accessibility, and organizations outside of the federal government (e.g., educational entities) are finding the VPATs to be an excellent tool for procurement decisions.