Asking questions about accessibility for individuals with disabilities is a critical, and sometimes overlooked, part of the vendor review and procurement process. Whether it’s a simple website, a web-based application, a mobile app, or some other type of electronic content, a vendor may not have the necessary information to share regarding support for accessibility. So, how will you be able to make a good decision? Here are three steps to help get started.
Start by asking a vendor for any accessibility documentation, such as a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (aka “VPAT”), accessibility conformance report, or third-party accessibility evaluation. The VPAT tends to be the most common and is created by the vendor to document a product’s level of conformance with current accessibility standards. Products change on a regular basis, so be sure to request accessibility documentation that is less than 12 months old.
Start with documentation and then ask questions about how the product supports accessibility. For example, has the vendor evaluated if the product works with a screen-reader (e.g., JAWS, NVDA, VoiceOver, etc.) or ever tested with voice recognition software? Is it possible to use the keyboard only to navigate and interact with all the features?
Asking accessibility questions when conducting a Request for Proposals (RFP) or Request for Information (RFI) can assess not only the accessibility of the digital product, but also the accessibility maturity of a potential vendor, developer, or contractor. See the list of Accessibility Questions for RFPs and RFIs for ideas.
Product demonstrations can provide an up-close view of a product’s functionality and accessibility testing can be part of these presentations. Asking a vendor to demonstrate real-world scenarios while using only the keyboard or with specific assistive technology applications (e.g., a screen-reader), can help identify existing accessibility barriers. This can also be an opportunity to learn if there are potential workarounds or other alternative ways to interact with the website or online application.
Want to Know More?
The Office of Digital Accessibility team is available to help you review a vendor’s documentation, responses to questions, and understand a product’s level of conformance with established accessibility standards. Reach out to us via our weekly Accessibility Office Hours or general request for assistance if you have any questions.