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Procurement of technology

The University of Missouri is committed to ensuring that all members of the university community have the same access to Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Therefore, anyone who is responsible for making decisions about procuring technology products must consider accessibility as one of the criteria for acquisition. The university has adopted an accessibility policy and a procedure for evaluating the accessibility of ICT products.

The following steps provide an example of how accessibility can be considered in the procurement process:

Step 1: Ask vendors to provide information about the accessibility of their products in the request for proposal (RFP)

Here is an example of language that can be included in the RFP:

“The vendor must describe how their IT products or services are accessible to users in accordance with WCAG 2.0 standards and the University of Missouri Digital Accessibility Policy. If there are issues that prevent the product or service from meeting these requirements, the vendor must describe efforts underway to address these issues, including anticipated timelines for completion.”

Step 2: Provide vendors with the vendor requirements and required Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) form

Provide vendors with a link to the vendor requirements page on the ACT Center Website, where they can find the required VPAT form and other important information. Vendors are required to provide information to the University about the accessibility of their products and services using a VPAT form. This is a standard form used by federal and state agencies to document accessibility requirements.

Step 3: Validate the information about accessibility provided by the vendor.

VPAT forms often provide good information about accessibility, but they have limitations because they are self-reports completed by the vendors. Sometimes vendors do not accurately access their product’s accessibility in the VPAT. Thus, particularly for products which are selected as finalists in the procurement process, it is important that the information in the VPAT be verified by an expert in IT. The Adaptive Computing Technology Center in the Division of IT assists with this process.

The Adaptive Computing Technology Center, within the division of IT, assists purchasers with verifying the information provided about accessibility from the vendors.

Step 4: If accessibility problems are found, require the vendor to commit to an Accessibility Roadmap and make a plan for accommodations

Many IT products are not fully accessible. However, when accessibility problems are found, vendors should at minimum be willing to make a commitment to address the accessibility problems of the product over a determined period of time. Without this commitment from the vendor, purchasing the product may place the university at risk of a complaint or lawsuit and also might require the purchasing department to make time consuming or expensive modifications or accommodations later when the product is not usable by a person with a disability. This situation can be addressed by requiring accessibility roadmaps. The Adaptive Computing Technology Center in the Division of IT assists with this process.

An “Accessibility Roadmap” addresses gaps in product accessibility identified in a VPAT. The roadmap is a proposal describing how and when the product will be fully accessible. Information about the vendor’s commitment to improving the accessibility of their product should be included in the contract. Contract renewals may be contingent upon satisfactory progress towards resolving the accessibility issues identified in the roadmap. The ACT Center works with vendors to complete accessibility roadmaps. Information about accessibility roadmaps can be found on the vendor requirements page.

During the time period the vendor is working to improve accessibility, the purchaser should also have a plan to provide effective access for any persons with disabilities who may not be able to use the inaccessible product. See providing accommodations for more information. If the department needs advice on possible accommodations, they should contact the ACT Center or the ADA Coordinator.

Step 5: Always include accessibility assurances in contracts with vendors

If ultimately the best product to serve your needs is one that fails to fully meet accessibility requirements, then information about the vendor’s commitment to remedy this issue using an accessibility roadmap should be included in the contract with the vendor and clearly explain how satisfactory progress on accessibility will be measured.

If a product is currently accessible, the contract should include language that assures continued accessibility as the product is updated.

For more information about procuring accessible IT, visit the ACT center website.