Step 4: Evaluating Proposals & VPATs
Once you receive all the responses to your RFP from various vendors, it’s time to review and grade the proposals to select a winning bidder. There are numerous ways to facilitate this process, but most involve assembling an evaluation panel of subject matter experts who are qualified to grade the responses against the RFP’s evaluation criteria. While such panels will be tasked with weighing a number of factors in their evaluations, it is paramount that accessibility be a key consideration when making a procurement award.
PEAT recommends appointing an accessibility subject matter expert to serve on the RFP’s evaluation panel. This person should understand accessibility standards and requirements, and take responsibility for determining the quality of the accessibility-related portions of the RFP responses. They should also check the accessibility of the proposals themselves, which can signal a vendor’s true commitment to the issue.
A key part of the proposal evaluation process will entail reviewing and assessing the responders’ Accessibility Conformance Reports (ACRs), which can often be new territory for procurement personnel who are new to accessibility.
What are VPATs and ACRs?
An Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR) is a document you should require vendors to complete during the RFP process for each ICT item. ACRs are created using the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT), and are used to help contracting officers assess, at least preliminarily, a product’s compliance with the accessibility standards set forth by the organization—typically Section 508 standards (for federal procurements) or WCAG for other procurements. Although they were created for federal government purchasers, they can be useful tools for all companies seeking to purchase accessible technology products and services.
VPAT 2.3 Update
ITI released VPAT 2.3 in December 2018, which incorporates WCAG 2.1. There are four different editions of the VPAT, enabling ICT manufacturers and vendors to create Accessibility Conformance Reports focused on the standards relevant to specific markets and contract requirements.
VPAT 2.3 508
Section 508 is the U.S. Federal accessibility standard. The refreshed Section 508 ICT accessibility standards and guidelines took effect on January 18, 2018.
ITI and the General Services Administration (GSA) offer many transition resources related to VPATs and the Section 508 refresh, which can be found at the links below:
VPAT 2.3 EU
EN 301 549 is the European Union’s “accessibility requirements suitable for public procurement of ICT products and services in Europe.”
VPAT 2.3 WCAG
WCAG 2.1 or ISO/IEC 40500 is W3C/WAI’s recently updated Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.