As a transit agency, compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act plays a critical role in your ability to serve your community. To provide the best service—and to comply with regulations—transportation needs to be both accessible and equitable.
Accessibility answers the need for public transit and/or paratransit to allow disabled persons to use transit as intended, from paying to boarding to riding. Equity, on the other hand, ensures all people can use transit or paratransit with comparable access to services, information, and technologies necessary for taking trips.
With riders using web applications and mobile devices to book and manage travel, digital accessibility and equity are must-haves. VPAT factors heavily in ensuring accessibility for riders using the latest technology. Learn what a VPAT is and why it’s important.
What is a VPAT?
MAAS, DRT, MDT ... transit is chock-full of acronyms, some easier to wrap your head around than others. VPAT—or Voluntary Product Accessibility Template—is another that is absolutely essential to modern operations. A VPAT is a document or conformance report published by information and communication technology (ICT) product vendors.
Your VPAT discusses how a product—such as your transportation software—meets the Revised 508 Standards for digital accessibility. Per Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, all government agencies must make ICT accessible to people with disabilities, and accordingly, ICT companies dealing with federal agencies must provide a VPAT.
So, where do you get this report? The Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) hosts the VPAT template document. There are four editions to choose from, so vendors can create accessibility conformance reports relevant to their markets:
- VPAT 2.4 Rev EU: Concerns the European Union’s “accessibility requirements suitable for public procurement of ICT products and services in Europe.”
- VPAT 2.4 Rev 508: Concerns the U.S. federal accessibility standard.
- VPAT 2.4 Rev WCAG: Concerns web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG) 2.1.
- VPAT 2.4 INT: Incorporates all other standards/guidelines.
Why does a clean VPAT matter to my agency?
The doors to today’s many transit options must be open to everyone. Accessibility and equity matter more and more with the shift to technology enablement and for a few key reasons:
Failing to meet Section 508 standards could result in a liability situation for any publicly funded transit agency that obtains software without having a clean VPAT. With a VPAT, you can verify that no claims have been made about the product that would subject your agency to legal action.
VPATs also frequently play a big role in request for proposal (RFP) processes. Make sure that when you put together your RFP for transit software solutions, you also request proof of a VPAT from software vendors. As an ethical agency, this could very well mean the difference between vendors obtaining or not obtaining your business!
What should you look for when choosing a transportation software provider?
While it’s easy to think of transportation software primarily in terms of features and functionalities (which are certainly important), an individual software’s VPAT is what you really want to assess digital accessibility and equity. Examine the VPAT from three perspectives: its summary, standards and guidelines, and accessibility conformance report.
What does a potential vendor’s VPAT say about them and their software? The VPAT summary provides general details about the product and VPAT, such as:
- Product name
- VPAT date
- Contact information
- Evaluation methods used
- Vendor-specific details
Applicable Standards and Guidelines
Which standards and guidelines were the product developed around? A VPAT should reflect adherence to one or more of the following:
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0
- Section 508
- EN 301 549 (European Union)
To provide additional clarity, some vendors will also include the WCAG 2.0 levels of conformance used in product development. There are three levels of conformance: A, AA, and AAA, and most vendors aim for the AA level.
Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR)
The ACR lists accessibility success criteria in one or more tables. It examines digital accessibility through the lens of WCAG principles—each of which combines to form another convenient acronym: POUR.
- Perceivable: Information and user interface (UI) components must be presented in ways users can perceive.
- Operable: UI components and navigation must be operable or usable.
- Understandable: Information within and the operation of the UI must be easy to understand.
- Robust: Content within the software must be robust enough that a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies, can interpret it reliably.
The ACR will display information in three columns:
- Success Criteria: A description of each applicable WCAG 2.0 criterion. This may also pull related Section 508 and EN 301 549 criteria in the same table cell if the product is a combination of multiple types of ICT (e.g., electronic content and software) and/or the product is sold in Europe.
- Conformance Level: There are five standard requirements: conformance level, full pages, complete processes, only accessibility-supported ways of using technologies, and noninterference.
- Supports: Product functionality has at least one method that meets the criteria without known defects or meets with equivalent facilitation.
Between the VPAT summary, guideline details, and a comprehensive ACR report, your agency will have access to all of the essential VPAT details to make an informed decision about whether a particular option is the right transit software for you!
Ensure your agency’s digital accessibility with Ecolane.
Transportation software must be accessible and equitable for all riders, ensuring ease of use for all. The VPAT serves as a guidepost to explain how a solution meets diverse needs.
Ecolane has digital accessibility covered for your agency with three clean VPATs—giving you extra peace of mind when deploying our solutions. We’re the leader in paratransit software, with an unyielding commitment to equitable and accessible inclusion of all persons regardless of ability. Our solutions relieve any concerns over compliance and help you stay prepared for your audits.
Want to learn how this could impact your agency? Talk to us to learn more.
About the Author
Read Ecolane's blog articles for perspective, opinion and information on transit and paratransit issues.