GSA Government-wide Section 508 Accessibility Program


Section 508 Transition Activities Update

Here are some updates on the Section 508 Transition Activities underway to centralize guidance, avoid duplication, and streamline the transition to the revised standards. The Access Board, the ACoP, GSA’s Government-wide Section 508 Team, and many of you who are working to help make this transition happen as smoothly as possible.

The Policy and LifeCycle Subgroup is preparing guidance to help agencies update their Section 508/Accessibility policy to reflect the new regulations. Topics include:

  • 508 exceptions;

What if the VPAT states that the product is not 100% Section 508 conformant?

Recently we received this question,
"We are interested in a buying a product and that product has a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT).
The VPAT shows that it is not 100% compliant. Can we craft the GPAT
for that product to mandate 508 even though it has a VPAT or do we look elsewhere for another product"

Our answer is:

What do Vendors do with a GPAT?

As a vendor, what do you do when a Government Product Accessibility Template (GPAT) is included in a solicitation? The GPAT identifies government accessibility requirements applicable Section 508 provisions to that acquisition. Here is what you need to do to respond.

The first section of the GPAT is a summary table of the government's accessibility requirements. It identifies the total number of applicable provisions, with notes that further explain these requirements. You need to wait to fill out this summary until after you fill out the rest of the GPAT.

What is a GPAT?

When you use the BuyAccessible Wizard or Quick Links, one of the outputs you get is a Government Product/Service Accessibility Template (GPAT). A GPAT is a simple tool to assist Federal contracting and procurement officials in fulfilling the market research requirements associated with the Section 508 standards. The GPAT is intended as a form to be included with government solicitations.

Is a GPAT the same as a VPAT?

The answer is that they are similar, but not the same. The Government Product/Services Accessibility Template (GPAT) reflects the government agency's accessibility requirements for the type of EIT they intend to buy. The Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) reflects the accessibility features of the vendor's product. Requirements may or may not match features. Features may or may not match requirements.

Is a VPAT Voluntary?

There is a misconception that Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates (VPAT) are a problem because they are always voluntary. It is true that a company can decide to voluntarily create a VPAT and post it on their website. BUT, if a government agency requires a VPAT as part of their solicitation, then it is no longer voluntary. It becomes a requirement. The only voluntary part is whether or not the company wants to compete for that contract.

We need to ask for more VPATs

The biggest problem with buying accessible Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the Federal government isn't bad VPATs (or other 508 conformance documentation); it is the fact that we don't even ask most of the time! As part of GSA's sampling of FedBizOpps solicitations, we check to see if agencies request a VPAT from vendors when they are trying to procure ICT. In our sampling, we found that only 6% of the time do agencies ask for a VPAT. The fix?


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