Inclusive Purchasing

Considering accessibility during purchasing decisions makes it much easier to accommodate individuals with disabilities. When accessibility is only a secondary consideration, accommodations have to be provided on a case-by-case basis, which can often be costly in terms of resources and personnel.

Purchasing Process

CSU’s Accessibility Policy requires vendors to provide a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) as part of the decision-making process. This form tells you where their product stands in regard to accessibility as mandated by the revised Section 508 Information and Communication Technology Standards and Guidelines (January 18. 2017).

Request a VPAT

  • In cases where more than one vendor provides the same service, the one with better accessibility should be given preference.
  • A VPAT can reveal the level of awareness that a vendor has for accessibility concerns, and their commitment level to resolving problems.
  • A VPAT does not have to be perfect in order for you to make a purchase. The key is to determine whether the vendor can commit to a plan for making improvements in a timely manner.

Interpreting the VPAT

Getting a VPAT is the first step, but having one does not guarantee full accessibility of the product. Claims made in a VPAT still need to be verified.

  • Does the VPAT claim perfection? In fact, the more reliable VPATs do not. Instead, they acknowledge areas of concern and detail areas that they have specific plans to improve.
  • Does the vendor have a VPAT readily available when you ask for it, or does it seem like they had to create one especially for you? If it took a while to get the VPAT from the vendor, it could be a sign that accessibility has not been an active concern of theirs.

For help interpreting a VPAT, contact the Web Accessibility Sub-Committee.

Asking the following questions can help determine the level of understanding and commitment of a company regarding electronic accessibility. The answers are also beneficial for providing more context to interpret the VPAT:

  1. Can you use your product without a mouse?
  2. Have you tested your product with Assistive Technology? If so, what were the results?
  3. Have you had users with disabilities do any testing for you?
  4. Does your company have an accessibility policy?
  5. Do you have anyone assigned to accessibility issues in your company?
  6. Do you have a roadmap for accessibility improvements?
  7. Do you have a plan for resolving any accessibility issues that come up during the period of a contract?

Request a Completed Checklist

In addition to a VPAT, vendors should also submit the following checklist. The checklist includes questions regarding the vendor’s overall awareness and commitment to accessibility, as well as manual testing prompts to verify claims made in the VPAT.

For help interpreting the Checklist, contact the Web Accessibility Sub-Committee.

If a product is not accessible but there is no viable alternative, it is important to request that the vendor begin making accessibility a priority. Ask them to commit to measurable progress over time. Include language in the contract holding them accountable to requests such as:

  • Assign a specific contact to work on accessibility issues as they arise
  • Develop a roadmap for accessibility improvements including a timeline for development