Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Who What and Where: The Facts About VPATs

Difficulty: 0

I am Eric Feinberg, chief marketing officer here at essential accessibility.

My entire career has been focused on helping we ensure great customer experience

for all people in the world.

We know how valuable your time is, and that's why we have made the

decision to keep this and all of our webinars

to 30 minutes.

We will have time for a live question-and-answer session at the end,

so please ask questions throughout.

Let's meet our main presenter.

Kara Zirkle is Essential Accessibility's manager of compliance and training.

She has over 17 years of experience working in the disability field and

actively advocates for and educates the world about web

accessibility, assistive technologies, and the laws that protect individuals with


She has a strong knowledge of universal design and the importance of

incorporating it into educational and work settings.

Once again, a big thank you to you, all of you who have joined us today on

the eighth official global accessibility awareness day

for our live webinar.

Let's get to it.

Welcome to the party.


Thanks Eric, and welcome everyone.

Let's get this started off by asking a polling question.

You will have something pop up on your screen and you will be able to select an answer and

hit submit and we will start to show some of those results very soon.

The question is what is your familiarity with VPAT, and I have:

I am familiar and reference them regularly; I have heard of a VPAT but not 100 percent sure

what to do with the; and I don't know about VPATs.

So we will give us another 20 seconds or so for the votes to come through and then

we will show the results overall.

While this is actually being done really when we are talking about VPATs

the voluntary product accessibility template, we are really talking about a

checklist essentially around accessibility

standards themselves.

So when we are looking at this let's see what the poll results show.

We have about 35 percent of you are familiar with them and

reference them regularly, and then we have about another 31 percent

who have heard of them but not really sure what to do with them.

And another equal 35 percent of you don't know anything about VPATs.

So this is really a nice blend of different things.

When we are talking about VPATs they are really used by buyers to

determine how accessible a product is and where there could be any potential

deficiencies necessarily on some of these different items.

When we are talking about this they essentially work

as the checklist we are talking about.

But more importantly what they are doing is starting a conversation because

by asking a vendor for a VPAT it starts the conversation around accessibility

and what it is that you're looking for and why you are asking,

and it really makes them more aware of what the requirements are

Because more government, state governments and universities,

are requiring a VPAT to be part of their procurement initiative.

Even so when we're looking at this information technology counsel is really

the global group that is behind updating all of those VPATs,

and we are currently on version 2.3 that came out in December.

But they are really universal language.

So regardless of whether we are talking about section 508 or WCAG 2.1

or the European standard...the VPAT can answer questions across the board because it really

is that universal language.

So when we are talking about that, do VPATs apply to you?

This is one of the common questions that we get, and really when we are

talking about that we get it from a corporate company saying you know what,

I really don't sell to the government or higher education much, if I do is maybe only 15 percent,

so is it really worth it? because 15 percent of sales is really

not all that much.

Corporate companies, if you are a client of ours,

we are educating our customers to ask for VPATs regardless of whether its

government, education, or corporate because really the baseline is everyone

is purchasing software, whether it's going to be a chat service or a checkout

system or something along those lines.

So regardless of who you really sell to, corporate companies are starting to

see it even if they are selling to someone outside of education

or government.

Sometimes you have financial institutions or e-commerce, hotels,

a lot of these groups are also having to use things like chat or CART and things

like that.

So really looking at that, the other question we get is, you know what, I am only

asked a couple of times of year, is really the return on investment worth it?

And in that instance completing a VPAT is a major test,

it's a deep dive, but being able to have that as a checklist,

you are really doing it only for your major updates.

So if you are looking at version 1 up to 1.5, with the change in management between

1 and 1.5?

Maybe it's not necessarily having to do a whole new retested VPAT but maybe only updates

as part of a roadmap feature

that you can apply to the VPAT, but then when you're looking at version 1 versus 2 you might

be looking at a new VPAT.

So it's not having to do that every time for every new request for a single VPAT

can then go out to be shared with all of the requests.

But it's really more on your change management and how updated the system is from one time

to another.

Looking at that as well, I don't really have time,

I have a hard enough time to really incorporate our roadmap and the updates

with the resources we have to include accessibility is sometimes too much, what

do we do?

And in that instance it's one of those of looking at it around accessibility

and universal design.

You are really incorporating and maintaining your product to be a better

product if you start to incorporate and look at accessibility.

So you might find it might help with some of those timing resources because you are

bettering the product overall.

Maybe you yourself rely on third party, and then what do you do?

If you are having your application tested and you have to rely on a third

party CART service, then when we are doing the testing for

some of that we often see to where you have limitations that you need to start asking

that other third party vendor for their VPAT

because even if you have made accessibility important and a priority

that you are working towards, you're only going to be able to do so

much until the other system is also going to work towards accessibility.

So procurement requirements, we will start to see that across the board whether

it's a corporate, government, or education.

Finally what happens if we are not accessible, won't telling a client that

we are not accessible hurt us?

And really the biggest thing is from a client perspective, as a client I used to

be that client perspective before coming to Essential

full-time, and being upfront with a client and letting them know

is really setting a precedent, rather than lying to them or just kind of going through

and checking boxes and things like that.

Furthermore being aware and actually promoting the VPAT documentation that

you have done or the accessibility statement that you may have

is showing where you actually see accessibility as a priority

and allows the client to be able to go And find it, rather than having them upfront

ask the question ahead of time.

So think about these things when you say does a VPAT apply?

When we talk about VPATs they will be different levels of accessibility.

We have your support, partially supports, and does not support.

Those are your three most common.

When we are looking at this you might see something this is not applicable.

In an instance like this, say videos are part of your standards but you might not

have any videos on your website or your application

so that can be a not applicable.

We might have a not evaluated.

Sometimes we have seen clients come to us saying I need a test for a VPAT, it's

on Friday, and the RFP is due Monday.

Well, we might not be able to have time to test that level to a

AAA of 2.0 or 2.

10 whatever that requirement is, so that might be an area that is not evaluated

right now.

But most of that you will see as WCAG and 2.0 or 2.1 depending on what the

client requirement is, level AAA is the most common standard.

You might see that not evaluated.

And asking the question of why just not evaluated versus

-- it's always a good question to go back and ask the vendor.

When we are looking at that what does a sample VPAT look like.

We have here a vendor claims partially supports, but really describes the issue

of how they partially support it.

So that way ask someone whether it's procurement, the requester, things like

that, they can go and see okay and partially support it, but I know exactly what it

will and won't do based on the remarks in the explanation.

So even without having a demo, I can get an idea of just how well someone might

be able to use this.

Whereas if we look at a VPAT that simply says supports but doesn't provide

anything, then if I am looking at the two and if

I would be having to choose, I would much rather trust of the vendor

that says they partially supports and gives all of the information around how

they do or don't, versus a vendor that simply checks the

box and says they support and provides no additional information to that.

So these are some of the things, some of the challenges that folks will run into an

something to think about when you may be on that end of answering the

VPAT to these customers that are asking questions.

Then we have what we consider an ideal VPAT.

An ideal VPAT is going to cover your EN 301, Section 508, your WCAG 2.1, you have

it out there for all of your clients and customers, regardless of the standards they might look at. And regardless of the conformance

level of supports, partially supports, does not support -- you

are actually adding in his remarks and an explanation.

When I used to be that customer asking for the VPAT, if I get something that

says support and I didn't have remarks and explanations, I would send it back to

the vendor and say I still need more information,

otherwise we will need a demo to test this on our own or you might need to go

out to a third party and have this tested so we can get more information because the

supports with blank information is not enough for us to make the decision that

we need.

>> ERIC FEINBERG: Kara, let me interrupt if you don't mind.

This is Eric again.

There was a great question that came in on the Q&A panel and instead of waiting

to the end, it's germane to what you are discussing so I will ask you now.

The question is what is the standard format for VPATs, and then the question goes

on to ask: I do not want to reinvent the wheel if I don't have to.

Is it PowerPoint or Excel or something like that, and are those three columns all

I need?

>> KARA ZIRKLE: When we are looking at a VPAT, going

back to ITIC, they are the ones that have the most updated version and everything

and that is coming in from a word file.

So they have that and actually when you're looking at their website

version 2.3 they have a revision from there.

But you also have a file there that shows the change management which is really

important because if you were looking at

a VPAT provided by a vendor and they may have 2.1

and you know that the 2.3

revised version is out, then what was the change management in

that? Is it really enough that you need to go back to the vendor and say I

actually need the most recent VPAT? Or was it maybe some formatting changes

and things like that to where it can still be okay to use the 2.1

versus the newest version of whatever might be out.

So stick with the ITIC, that's a word version of the format

that you need and pay attention to the change management. That change management

form on their website will be really important when you are on the end-user

side of reviewing these VPATs to see where those changes are and maybe how

out of date it may or may not be.

>> ERIC FEINBERG: Perfect, and thank you so much, and I will also use this

opportunity to remind everybody to leverage the Q&A function on the

bottom of the screen to add your questions throughout the webinar, not the

chat, Q&A.

Thank you so much.

>> KARA ZIRKLE: Thanks.

When we are talking about who was invited to the party,

we are talking about use a vendor right now.

So let's focus that with any vendors we might have.

In that instance we often get a lot of questions around

we update our software so often, how do we keep up?

Or is there enough time to remediate accessibility errors and to upgrade every thing else on

the roadmap?

Or even what happens if we can make the product accessible?

These are some of the things we talked about prior.

Then we have use the customer, the ones asking for the VPAT.

We are saying that they are not really always accurate and therefore they are not

always helpful.

So what do we do?

Or sometimes they might be too high level.

Is not giving us enough information.

One of the ones I find a lot is if there is multiple user profiles on an application,

let's do everyone a favor and break those down because if

there is an end-user versus an admin, if a vendor gives you a single VPAT that tells

you the level of compliance for both of those user platforms, then

they are essentially and potentially bringing down the level

of accessibility of their end-user because the admin is less accessible.

But as you the customer not knowing that, you are automatically saying that the

product itself is really a little bit more on the partially

or do not support side, whereas if the vendor would have broken those down you

could have actually seen your end-user product actually is fairly accessible

whereas the admin side is a little bit more of does not support or

partially support.

What does that do?

That actually allows you to be able to have a conversation

around where your needs, what the prioritization is, and the risk level of

the number of users could help you as pertaining to the end-user.

Maybe you have ever user in the company or the education system

using that end-user product, but if that is more of an accessible version

you may only have a small number of users for the admin,

then you might be able to work something out contractually.

Those are looking at that from a different standpoint.

And really making sure that the VPAT itself is going to be accurate

as well as complete.

So asking for a VPAT USMLE get a response from a vendor is really that starting

point of the conversation.

But it's really more around understanding the accessibility or the

vendor understanding it or the end-user understanding how to read it and get the

information from it, that's the important aspect.

So using that question kind of starts things.

Minutes the accountability.

And that accountability is going to be ensuring that it is broken down,

sometimes having to advocate and ask questions.

But then it goes even further into whether the VPAT, doesn't have a roadmap,

is there any other applying documentation, is the vendor willing to share

the testing report that went with the product itself.

Do they have it, is it being completed internally, did they go out to a third party

resource to have that tested.

And that brings us into the last group, the accessibility vendor.

With some of the requirements of those customers asking the

questions, they won't accept a VPAT that is done internally because there could be a bias.

Oftentimes one of the sales guys are actually answering questions because they

need to meet the requirements is to make to sale.

But do they really understand the development side of things?

Probably not.

So in that instance that's where the vendors will come to the accessibility

companies and they will say okay, we need a VPAT.

That's where the accessibility companies are now becoming the

customer's cheerleaders because we are really telling the vendors the same thing, just

from another avenue, that it takes a deep dive test, about 150

up to 200 hours to test an application.

Then they are going to get that report that tells them all of the things that

need to work on and how to make these recommendations for changes as well as a VPAT

that has all of the information of these remarks and

explanations to give to the customer.

Not only that but also advising WCAG 2.0 or 2.1.

2.1 has been out for a year now so if anyone comes to us and says what should

I look for, you are going to pay the money for the

test regardless, so go to the 2.1.

And then use it as a business structure and business decision can see that let's focus

on 2.0, that's really where you feel like you

need to be, and then look at the 2.1 is your secondary.

But if not and this is different than making changes, go for the gold, go to 2.1,

because anything you are able to do, to color contrast for example, that is in 2.0

as well as 2.1.

So if you go to make the change once let's go to the 2.1 level.

So we are trying to advocate as well for some of the vendors so that way we become the customer


But then who is crashing the party?

Crashing that party is now you the customer requesting the VPAT because now

it is more of you know what, the schools or government, they are

asking all of these questions around the VPAT, they are asking us end-user versus admin

user, holding us to a certain level of compliance.

Because in reality these are parts of your procurement.

You can use the VPAT or the roadmap and tie those to the contract.

Sometimes you might require actually having the vendor provide a demo and some

of the testing from there.

But then you also have the procurement officer who was saying you know what, I have

a set of requirements I need to do to make sure that I'm looking at

getting the most accessible product but I don't know what I'm looking at because

it's a VPAT, a checklist, and not everything is done the same.

So there is no standard item for me to compare to.

So it's really hard for procurement to be able to verify and look at some of these

things and overall it can sometimes be confusing for the VPATs to be reviewed and to

know whether or not you are really purchasing an accessible product.

So that then raises questions and goes back to that product vendor to say what

does it mean from compliance and that this is

partially, but is that your full product, is that an end-user or admin?

You don't have remarks and explanations, we need that filled out.

Then you go back and forth a little bit to where what happens is you have the VPAT

process and the VPAT process here is option one, you

the VPAT requester.

And in that VPAT requester --in that VPAT request we actually have

an internal team and they complete that VPAT, they send it to the customer, the customer

returns the VPAT with questions, and then the deal can stall.

What happens is because it is done internally it could be unbiased and not completely created

but it stalls the deal going to that who was scratching the party.

Then we have option two, the VPAT is requested, they go out to a third party company and they

do a deep dive test, complete the VPAT and give it to the vendor and

the vendor can give it to the customer, they can choose to give the report to

the customer if they so choose, the customer gets all the information they need to where

they are happy with that information to where they can make a decision

that hopefully you as the vendor win the deal.

And that's really what we are talking about with some of these different features.

So to end all of that looking at procurement requirements, the question

is is it really voluntary anymore?

We ask that because not only is higher education and

government, but we also have K-12, a small list of schools but they are

starting to require VPATs as a requirement.

And many of these don't allow them to be done internally.

So if we're looking at that, the US government agency, GSA, is actually starting to use

some artificial intelligence to help with the minimum requirements.

Let's say for example they have some keywords of VPAT or accessibility and start

to use AI to scan through these things.

Going to help us find much quicker whether or not the VPATs are going to be


So voluntary is no longer really an option for many procurement policies,

but really it's only an option for whether the vendor chooses or not to complete

and actually make the sale.

In that instance we go back and ask the question is it really worth having a VPAT?

So with that I want to turn it back over to Eric and see what kind of

questions we have coming in.

>> ERIC FEINBERG: So many good questions, Kara, thank you so much,

we've got plenty of time for questions so please input them in the Q&A part on

the bottom of your screen.

This first one is from Jay, it says: VPATs are generally associated with government contracts.

Think he is riffing off of what you were just saying.

Do you think in the next few years we will see VPATs pervade the private sector too?

>> KARA ZIRKLE: I certainly hope so.

I think it's more around your education and the more that the corporate sector starts

to include accessibility as a priority, they too as long as they are

relying on a third party are going to start asking the same questions.

>> ERIC FEINBERG: Thank you so much.

This one is from Rajesh: how are VPATs used in litigation?

>> KARA ZIRKLE: That's a great question.

I'm not a lawyer and I always refer these to our legal department, but at

the same time I will say when it comes to looking at

VPATs we talk procurement, procurement can sometimes talk with

legal counsel and legal counsel can work up contractual items.

So I would not necessarily answer the question from a litigation perspective,

but I can answer it for more of your contractual perspective.

Contractually you can tie things like VPATs and roadmaps to the contract to ensure that

the vendor is going to provide you that VPAT or that follow-up roadmap within 30, 60, 90


If they don't achieve those roadmap timelines that was tied to the contract,

then is it something that you as a group can come up with a new

roadmap timeframe, or is that going to be a void within the contract?

That goes back to the legal counsel and the procurement groups

of those making those contractual agreements with the vendors.

>> ERIC FEINBERG: That is totally clear.

And for any of you that are asking these questions and are interested in

more information, our email addresses are right there and we can always follow-up and

talk with you a bit more.

We got lots of questions, let me keep going for you.

This one is from Rachel, I love this question: VPATs seem to

cover the usability of the software but not necessarily the output.

For example, a software may export a PDF that does

not meet WCAG 2.0 requirements.

How do you know what has not been tested and how do you check for those

things when assessing vendors?

>> KARA ZIRKLE: That's a great question, Rachel.

That goes back to asking the vendor for additional documentation.

In the instance that I would be looking at, say a document management

tool, because often you have your management tools, your platform,

or maybe even a finance area and they export a PDF.

That's really a feature and it's a functionality of the application, so

absolutely it should be tested.

And in that part of the limitation may be they are using a third party tool to

export that PDF out, so it's not an easy question to answer.

But really the only answer to that is to understand the workflow, understand the

background, understand what has been tested and has not been

tested, asking the vendor for those testing documentation and anything else

that they can test for that because if it is something they all

create as a functionality within its tool, I would still include the PDF as part of that.

However if they rely on a third party tool to then convert and push that out as a

PDF, and that's where they as a vendor have

to start talking to that other third party, and that is a limitation to where

you can't be asking for that VPAT, but then it starts to limit the product


>> ERIC FEINBERG: I think that's a super nuanced but totally accurate answer.

When I hear you talk about this in our trainings internally and externally,

I think what you are advocating for here is accessibility

as part of the total customer experience, and that would include

things that are delivered from the product that you are evaluating in

the software you are evaluating, and its output inclusive in its


I just wanted To let you know we have five minutes left,

I wanted to just remind people that they can unmute

themselves if they would like to ask a question verbally if that is a

preference for them, given that we are Essential Accessibility and we want everybody

to have the opportunity to ask questions however they want.

So I will listen at any point and be interrupted happily to take those questions.

I have another great question for you, Kara, which is -- I love this question

too -- are products more or less accessible than websites?

>> KARA ZIRKLE: That's a really good question.

The way I have seen it from being a customer

You used to have to ask for the VPATs.

If I would find a company that didn't have a VPAT or didn't know what one was

or maybe needed to look for one online, I would

go to their website and use whatever free automated tool

knows Wave from WebAim, that's what everyone uses, and look at it on their website.

The reality is it is much easier to make a website accessible then it is an application.

And if the website is not accessible it gives you a little bit of an insight

on what they see as a priority for accessibility

and what that might look like as part of an actual product or application.

So that is one of the ways that I look at it

to get insight if I can't get a VPAT or can't get an answer.

>> ERIC FEINBERG: Excellent.

Heather asked the question that I will

answer for you and us -- can you send a link to where we can find the most recent VPAT

format from the publicly available website? We will add that to our follow-up

email or you can email either of us and we will reply directly, Heather, no problem.

I'm going to pause for 10 seconds to see if anybody wanted to jump in with a



There is another great question here from Brandon.

Do you advocate for -- well, we are asking you to be a contract lawyer now

-- do you advocate for indemnification clauses as a protection against

inaccurate VPATs?

>> KARA ZIRKLE: Great question, Brandon, you must be a procurement officer.

The indemnified clauses really the contractual transfer and it's really a

risk between the two contractual parties.

Whether it's the government or higher education versus the vendor themselves.

That is a tough question and I have to say that

it's not a black and white answer.

It's not a one-size-fits-all.

It is something that's a great idea.

Anything that you can do to protect yourself as a customer

then I say go for it.

But at the same time when I say that, it's something you have to run by your

procurement and legal counsel and have all of your okay and yes is

versus any know to do something like that.

So it's a very touchy subject.

Sometimes by doing so you might have a vendor walk away, so thinking about that

as well, is it worth it.

So you have to ask yourself -- it does help transfer the risk between

the parties, but it also adds risk on whether or not you might be able to purchase

what you want.

>> ERIC FEINBERG: That's an excellent answer.

We have one minute to go.

We will have a brief closing remark and then we will split.

Jesse has a great question, Jesse, if you could copy and paste that into an

email to either of us we will reply to you, it's an excellent question about

retailers in the reluctance of vendors to commit to being accessible.

Kara, thank you so much, you are awesome.

The webinar was great today.

We have our promise to always keep them at 30 minutes, and so we are there.

The webinar today will be recorded and shared

and we will send an email with follow-up instructions about how to

download and replay the webinar.

If you have any questions please email either of us directly or at

The purpose of global accessibility awareness day is to do this very thing.

To get everyone talking, thinking, and learning about access and inclusion.

I think we accomplished our goal today.

So happy global accessibility awareness to everyone, have a great day, thank you all.

The Description of Who What and Where: The Facts About VPATs