The number of digital accessibility lawsuits filed in federal courts and state courts is rising at a steady pace. The surge in litigation indicates the urgency of having a proactive approach against fines and penalties. To steer clear of digital accessibility litigation, businesses must recognize the significance of 508 compliance certification.
In the current landscape, getting a section 508 VPAT report is a safer and efficient approach than seeking legal support to prevent future claims. Every year, over 10,000 cases were filed for non-compliance to digital accessibility laws. Violating Section 508 compliance can cost up to $100,000 of fines. Even the largest US brands are facing long legal battles because of their inaccessible website. In case the content on your business website is not easily navigable and the content displayed is not compatible with varied browser extensions or screen readers, then sooner or later you will get a lawsuit from a serial litigant. Before the situation arises, conduct an accessibility audit and obtain your section 508 compliant certification.
Section 508 covers the accommodation of accessibility of ICT (Information and Communication Technology ) products. It is one of the several laws that protect the civil rights of the disabled population in the US. Section 508 requires that technology, websites and all remote access tools should be easily accessible to people with disabilities. 26% of the adult US population is dealing with some sort of disability. Since technology has become an inseparable part of our lives, it is inevitable that disabled people are accessing your products and offerings. Thus it becomes important to make your digital offerings accessible to reduce the risk of lawsuits and millions of dollars of penalties.
VPAT or Voluntary Product Accessibility Template is used to generate the ACR (Accessibility Conformance Report). Some vendors publish the ACR on their business websites, others provide it on request. The ACR is a voluntary declaration of the level of conformance to Section 508. The law mandates the success criteria defined in the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). The refreshed version of Section 508 applies that the ACR generated should be based on the WCAG 2.1 standards.
VPAT is created by the Information Technology Industry (ITI) Council. Downloading the template is easy but generating the ACR should not be confused with an accessibility audit. ACR includes the basic information about the evaluation methods and the compliance levels, whereas an audit is performed at an in-depth level. Before you attempt to create the ACR in-house, it is recommended to have third-party expertise. It is an incredibly complicated process and a misstep can compromise the results – an incorrect ACR can leave you exposed for a lawsuit.
The ACR should reflect accurate and relevant information. Unless your organization has accessibility specialists who have the experience and a current skillset to work according to the latest updates of WCAG success criteria, hiring independent auditors is the best practice to ensure your digital products are accessible and minimize your exposure for a lawsuit.
Additionally, only getting a VPAT is not a certification of your compliance with several accessibility laws. Your business may still be susceptible to lawsuits for ADA violations. So the best approach is to hire a certified accessibility specialist and conduct an audit before attempting for VPAT certification. For a VPAT example and for full instructions on completing the ACR, visit the link given below.