What Is A Tech Company?
A “tech company” is a firm or business that provides a technology-based service, product, or hardware, or heavily relies on these as its primary revenue source.
You’re also a tech company if you’re in the business of selling technology. That is to say, if your product or the thing you make money by selling consists of applied scientific knowledge that solves concrete problems and enables other endeavors, you’re a tech company.
A tech company is therefore any company that harnesses technology to create competitive advantage.
Tech Companies And The Voluntary Product Accessibility Template
To appreciate the role of the voluntary product accessibility template (VPAT) in tech companies, a review of the revised Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act suffices.
In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act to require federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities, regardless of whether they work for the federal government or not. Section 508 of the Act provides guidelines for rendering EIT accessible to, and therefore usable by, people with disabilities.
To further the accessibility of EIT products and services, the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) collaborated with the General Services Administration (GSA) to create the VPAT in 2001.
The VPAT is a prototype document that is filled out by a manufacturer or vendor of an EIT product or service to document the extent to which the product or service conforms to the established accessibility standards.
Currently, there are three accessibility standards that underpin the four existing editions of the VPAT: the Section 508 Accessibility Standards, the European Union’s EN 301 549 Accessibility Standard for public procurement of EIT, and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
The editions of the VPAT are the WCAG VPAT Edition (Section 508), the EU (EN 301 549) VPAT Edition, and the International (INT) VPAT Edition. The editions are meant to help manufacturers and vendors of EIT products and services tailor their VPAT accessibility conformance reports (ACRs) to the specific needs associated with the market or buyer they want to sell their product or service to.
For instance, if a manufacturer or vendor wants his or her product or service to be procured by federal organizations, the admissible VPAT ACR should be based on the Section 508 VPAT edition. To only demonstrate conformance with the WCAG, which would be the case for websites and web-based solutions, the correct VPAT to use is the VPAT WCAG 2.0 or 2.1 editions.
If a manufacturer or vendors desired to have his or her EIT products and services procurable in Europe, they should generate a VPAT ACR by filling out the EU (EN 301 549) VPAT. For manufacturers and vendors who want their EIT products and services to be available for purchase globally, they should use the VPAT INT to generate their VPAT ACRs. The VPAT INT comprises all the accessibility requirements in the other three editions of the VPAT template.
The VPAT Is Voluntary But Mandatory For Tech Companies!
As the name of the VPAT template suggests, filling out a VPAT is voluntary for any business. However, when you consider the template’s importance to the business, its delimitation as “voluntary” fades away and its status as mandatory comes to the fore.
Every tech company exists to sell its products and services to its customers. Without a VPAT, it will be very difficult for buyers of the products or services to make informed decisions relating to the products’ or services’ accessibility before purchasing them.
Increasingly more buyers want to understand a product’s or service’s level of accessibility compliance, compare the compliance of similar products and services, choose the product or service that best meets the accessibility standards and the organization’s functional and legal requirements, and plan for equally effective access when an accessible product or service is not available. A tech company without a VPAT will therefore not be able to pitch to these buyers.
VPAT security has become the norm for buyers who are committed to accessibility. For instance, no federal organization permits a tech company’s product or service to participate in its procurement processes if the company does not have a VPAT for the targeted product or service.
The VPAT completion process, including the VPAT testing by a credible VPAT audit professional, is relied upon by many buyers to make the decision to purchase a product or service.
Even if the tech company has the best product or service, VPAT accessibility is mandatory for the product or service to participate in the procurement processes. This trend is being replicated in the procurement processes of other organizations like large corporations, healthcare providers, and educational institutions, among others.
Need Help With Completing A VPAT For Your Tech Company?
If you have a tech company and want to sell your products and services to various markets, you can get help creating a VPAT ACR for each of the products or services. Call (626) 486-2201 to schedule a discussion at a time that is convenient for you. Our consultations are always complementary