Procurement Tips

It is the responsibility of employees and purchasing agents of Texas A&M University to find the most accessible business solutions possible when procuring Electronic and Information Resources (EIR). Make sure you allow adequate time to secure information necessary to aid you in your procurement decision. 

Steps to ensure accessibility

Do your homework by researching the accessibility of a given product or service before taking steps to purchase it.

  • Obtain a vendor-completed Voluntary Product Accessibility Template® (VPAT®) - also known as an Accessibility Conformance Report - to allow you to assess the accessibility of an EIR.  
    • Search for the VPAT® on the vendor's website. 
    • If not available online, request a VPAT® from the vendor.
    • If the vendor does not have a VPAT® readily available, provide a blank VPAT® with instructions so company representatives may complete it. The current Section 508 VPAT® can be found on the ITI website in the "Resources" section near the bottom of the VPAT® page.
  • Compare the VPATs® of several different products or services, and choose the most accessible EIR that best meets the business needs of the University.
  • Get your procurement and contract offices involved. They often have accessibility language ready to insert into procurement documents and can work with specific vendors to ensure compliance.
  • For additional information, enlist the help of the Division of Information Technology accessibility team by emailing itaccessibility@tamu.edu.

VPAT® usage and limitations

The VPAT® is merely a tool to be utilized by those procuring EIR. Albeit valuable, the VPAT® should never be taken at face value. Conversations with vendors about accessibility are a vital part of the procurement process. 

Just because a vendor notates "supports" within its VPAT® does not necessarily mean it's a good option. Some things to look for:

  • If a vendor has never heard of the term VPAT®, chances are the EIR in question is not accessible, or you may need to do some independent research and/or testing.
  • A VPAT® which indicates "supports" for all criteria without much explanation about the EIR should raise a red flag regarding its validity.
  • More is not always better. Just because a VPAT® for a given EIR contains more supported criteria than another, does not make it the more accessible choice. Careful consideration should be taken to analyze how the product or service will be used and how each of the criteria affect that usage.

Depending on scope or utilization of the EIR, additional accessibility testing may be warranted. For example, if a particular software will be utilized for a large group on the Texas A&M campus, testing would be necessary. It can be performed at the unit level or by the accessibility team at the Division of Information Technology. Either way, proper documentation of accessibility testing is necessary to proceed with procurement of EIR.

Additional requirements and documentation

Whether an EIR is purchased to fulfill a business need, or services are procured for the development of EIR, ALL procurement documents should include a statement about EIR accessibility standards. These may include, but are not limited to, Requests for Qualifications, Requests for Proposals, and Contracts. For additional assistance, contact your procurement/contracts office.

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