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 Voluntary Product Accessibility Template®, or VPAT®, 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. 
  • 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.

Did you know?

  • In the United States, about 55 million people have a disability (src: 2010 U.S. Census).
  • About 1 in 5 Americans have some kind of disability (src: 2010 U.S. Census).
  • The percentage of people affected by disabilities is growing as our population ages.
  • Two popular, free screen readers are VoiceOver (Mac OS and iOS) and NVDA (Win).
  • Good accessibility practices can improve the search ranking of your website.
  • Form fields without labels can cause problems for some assistive technology users.
  • Low color contrast makes content difficult to see, especially for users with low vision.
  • Documents linked on a website need to be accessible too (e.g., PDF and Word files).
  • Audio content, like podcasts, need transcripts for deaf or hard of hearing users.
  • Online videos should be captioned for deaf or hard of hearing users.
  • Using HTML tags correctly is very important for accessibility.
  • Descriptive link text helps make a website more accessible. Avoid using "Click here" or "Read more."
  • A "screen reader" is an application that reads content aloud to a user.
  • There is no "alt tag" in HTML. "Alt" is an attribute used with the img tag.
  • HTML uses the alt attribute to provide a text description of an image.
  • Alt text should describe an image, if the purpose of the image is to convey information.
  • If an image is a link, the alt text for the image should explain where the link goes.
  • If an image is only being used for decoration, the alt text should be null (i.e., alt="").
  • If a table has headers, using header tags (<th>) will make the table more accessible.
  • An accessible website is one that can be navigated and understood by everyone.