Accessibility Resources for Purchasing Professionals

Procuring Accessible Technology

Salt Lake Community College strives to ensure that IT products purchased by, or used at the College are accessible to all faculty, students, and staff, including those with disabilities. To reach this goal, those responsible for making decisions about which products to procure should consider accessibility as one of the criteria for acquisition. This is especially critical for technologies that affect a large number of students, faculty, and/or staff. The following three steps provide an example of how accessibility can be considered in the procurement process. The Universal Access Coordinator can assist with any of these steps.

Step 1: Ask bidders/offerors to provide information about the accessibility of their products.

The following language will be included in solicitations (e.g., RFPs) for information technology products or services:

SLCC adheres to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Level AA for guidance in meeting its IT accessibility commitments.  A checklist for understanding the requirements of WCAG 2.0 Level AA is available for review. (Link to checklist) SLCC reserves the right to verify the accessibility of any product through independent testing. 

In the scope of work, you should outline any specific accessibility requirements that a product must meet as well as request information to help you determine accessibility compliance. Below are some example questions/requests that can be included in a solicitation to obtain the information necessary to evaluate a product’s accessibility:

  • Are all interfaces (both for administrators and end-users) that are part of your product compliant with Section 508 and/or WCAG 2.0 AA?
  • Describe your accessibility conformance testing process.
  • Do you have an accessibility function or team responsible for technical development? If so, describe its role in your organization.
  • Who will pay to remediate any necessary fixes after purchase?
  • Provide a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) for your product. SLCC reserves the right to verify the accessibility of any product through independent testing.
  • Describe current efforts to make your product compliant with accessibility standards.
  • Provide your roadmap for making your product compliant with accessibility standards.
  • How do you assure that you keep your product current with changing legal requirements and accessibility best practices?

It is also suggested that you make accessibility compliance a rating criteria.

Step 2: Validate the information provided by bidders and evaluate their products for accessibility. The Universal Access Coordinator can help.

Vendors should provide detailed information about the accessibility of their product or services. One common method is by providing a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT). This is a standard form developed to assist federal agencies in fulfilling their Section 508 requirements. VPATs can sometimes be informative, but they have limitations since they are self-reports completed by the vendors. Some vendors do not have adequate technical expertise to accurately assess their products’ accessibility. Others complete their VPATs in ways that trivialize the significance of accessibility shortcomings. Therefore, VPAT claims should be independently verified and not accepted at face value. A VPAT could provide a good starting point, but ultimately vendors, particularly those whose products are selected as finalists, should be engaged in a thorough discussion about accessibility of their products. The Universal Access Coordinator can help review any VPATs that are submitted.

Few IT products are fully accessible. However, vendors should at a minimum be willing to make a commitment to address accessibility concerns. Without this commitment, people with disabilities might not be able to fully utilize IT products. 

Step 3: Include accessibility assurances in contracts with vendors.

If the best product for meeting a particular need is one that fails to fully meet accessibility requirements, vendors should be asked to make a commitment to improving accessibility over a specified timeline, perhaps working with campus staff.

After a procurer discusses accessibility issues with a vendor, the procurement contract should include language that specifically documents the agreement between vendor and procurer as to how satisfactory progress on accessibility will be measured. For example, the vendor might provide a roadmap as an addendum to the contract with a prioritized list of accessibility issues and a timeline for addressing each issue. Then, contract extensions might be contingent upon satisfactory progress toward resolving the issues identified in the roadmap. It is the budget center manager’s responsibility to ensure that this timeline is included in the contract.

While vendors that do not have accessible competitors may be used, contract language should encourage such vendors to make improvements when possible and allow for feedback from the institution.

Even if the product is currently accessible, the contract should include language that assures continued accessibility as the product is updated. This is especially important for products that are developed on an ongoing rapid release cycle.

Below is some sample language that could be incorporated into a contract:

(Company) acknowledges and warrants that their Programs and services are currently in compliance with accessibility standards and during the Term of this Agreement shall remain in compliance with all applicable Federal disabilities laws and regulations, including without limitation the accessibility requirements of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (29 U.S.C. 794d), and its implementing regulations set forth at Title 36, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 1194.  (Company) agrees to promptly respond to, resolve and remediate any complaint regarding accessibility of its products or services in a timely manner and provide an updated version to Customer at no cost.  Customer reserves the right to request, from (Company), a timeline by which accessibility standards will be incorporated into the Programs and (Company) shall provide such a timeline within a commercially reasonable duration of time. (Company) further agrees to indemnify and hold harmless Customer from any claims arising out of its failure to comply with the requirements of this section.  Failure to comply with these requirements shall constitute a material breach of this Agreement and shall be grounds for termination of this Agreement by Customer.
These warranties will not apply if the Programs are: (i) modified or altered in any way (other than by (Company) or with the specific prior written consent of (Company)); (ii) not updated with the corrections, patches, fixes, updates, improvements or enhancements that (Company) may make available from time to time; (iii) used in any manner or for any purpose not specifically permitted by this Agreement or the documentation.