(Updated for 2023)
The Accessibility Conformance Report or ACR is a representation of how a product meets the applicable accessibility standards.
An ACR is usually the result of a completed VPAT® (Voluntary Product Accessibility Template).
The difference between VPAT and ACR is the source of moderate confusion so let’s unpack everything.
The Voluntary Product Accessibility Template or VPAT is just that — a blank template that can be filled out to account for that product or service’s state of accessibility.
Beyond addressing the product’s accessibility, an ACR contains the pertinent product information such as the name of the product, product description, applicable standards, evaluation methods used, etc.
Simply, an ACR is a completed VPAT (i.e., the blank template is filled out).
In the marketplace, the term VPAT dominates, even though it’s usage is technically incorrect because a VPAT is only a blank template.
You’ll often hear procurement departments ask for a VPAT but what they’re really asking for is an ACR.
Note: Per Section508.gov, “there are other possible methods to complete an ACR” but “the most common way an ACR is completed is by using the VPAT®”.
The Essential Information
At a minimum, an ACR must include:
- Report Title: “[Company Name] Accessibility Conformance Report”
- VPAT version
- Name of Product (and version, if applicable)
- Product description
- Date of Publication
- Contact information
- Evaluation Methods Used
- Applicable standards: WCAG 2.0, WCAG 2.1, Revised Section 508, EN 301 549
This guide contains the basic information. If you need to complete an ACR, read the full instructions for completing an ACR on FDIC.gov.
Recommended Best Practices
The Information Technology Industry Council or ITI (creators of the VPAT) also recommend the following best practices in creating an ACR:
- Include a branded header with logo or entity information
- Date changes if the report is revised
- Any notes applicable to the product or report including links or product description
- legal disclaimers
Of course, the main course — and the most important part of an ACR — is the filled-out table that addresses the product’s conformance with the applicable standard.
For each criterion under a standard, you must state whether the product supports, partially supports, does not support, or whether the criterion is not applicable to describe the level of conformance.
You can read more about what you need to complete a VPAT along with additional explanation on the difference between a VPAT vs. an ACR in my VPAT guide.
Not an Audit
An ACR is not an audit.
An audit goes into much greater detail than an ACR.
If you have an accessibility audit performed, you can usually get an ACR at a much lower cost, if not included with the price of the audit.
It’s optimal to have an independent, expert third-party expert specializing in digital accessibility issue your ACR vs. creating your own ACR in-house.
To stay competitive in 2021, your organization needs to have ACRs to send to procurement departments but they need to contain reliable and accurate information.
Unless your organization has an internal team consisting of a technical accessibility specialists, you won’t be able to produce a good ACR.
There are reputable third-party companies who can issue accurate ACRs for your organization.
VPAT / ACR services are offered by reputable companies but vetting providers is extremely important. The last thing you want to do is waste time and money paying thousands of dollars to a scam vendor.
For example, some accessibility overlay vendors (the ones that claim instant accessibility) market VPAT services. VPATs issued from an overlay vendor lack any credibility; you’d need to get another VPAT from a real, established company.
ACRs are typically not for websites or mobile apps but for products and, sometimes, services.
For example, software would be a prime example of when an ACR is called for.
However, per Section508.gov, an ACR may involve a website as part of the electronic content of a product or service.
“A Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT®) is a document that explains how information and communication technology (ICT) products such as software, hardware, electronic content, and support documentation meet (conform to) the Revised 508 Standards for IT accessibility.”
For non-product websites or apps, ask your accessibility provider for a conformance statement (that speaks directly to WCAG 2.0 AA or 2.1 AA) and/or certification.
Learn about the ADA website compliance legal landscape and services marketplace.
Would you like to certify your website’s accessibility? Read my guide to ADA website compliance certification.
Working on WCAG 2.2 conformance? Study the latest version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines with my WCAG 2.2 aa checklist.
Are you new to ADA compliance and website accessibility? Read my WCAG for beginners introduction.
My VPAT helps procurement teams with purchasing accessible products and services.
The Americans with Disabilities Act is just one of the laws that concerns website accessibility. Read my 504 website compliance and 508 compliance website guides. Companies with employees in Ontario may also be interested in my AODA website compliance requirements explainer.
What exactly is a website accessibility audit? My write-up on audits will help you understand what goes into an ADA website accessibility audit.