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Finding the Balance: Vetting Accessibility in Purchasing and Use Decisions

taught by: Rob Carr

Session Summary

Join me to dive into techniques that make a VPAT more effective and to discuss how to use other methods and tools to better account for accessibility in technology purchasing and use decision-making. Leave with a larger procurement toolbox and insight informed from first-person experience.


The Voluntary Product Accessibility Template, or VPAT, is a common tool. We use it to evaluate accessibility in a third-party vendor’s product or platform. The fact that the vendors are responsible for testing and documenting results in the VPAT does introduce some nuance, though. For that and other reasons, the VPAT’s reputation suffers. Is it really the fault of the VPAT in and of itself, though, that information is often incomplete, inaccurate, or outdated? Or can we identify ways to make the VPAT a more reliable instrument by adjusting how we integrate it into our technology purchasing and use decisions?

In this session, we will get into the weeds of thoroughly vetting an Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR) based on the VPAT. We’re not skipping ahead to the specific technical criteria in an ACR, either. We will lean into the information that a vendor provides from the beginning. We will discuss how we can use the ACR to evaluate technical conformance to standards and a vendor’s ability to improve or maintain accessibility over time.

The session will address the need for more than one round of review of an ACR. We will also discuss the potential to build a conversation around the ACR with additional measures to help us evaluate products and the vendors that provide them. Specifically, we will dedicate time to the notion of a live demonstration of accessibility support found in a product.

We will examine sample, publicly available ACRs and compare their content. We will identify items that do and do not require a technical or accessibility-aware reviewer. We will discuss the kinds of questions we need to ask and the answers we should expect to make the ACR a much more effective information-gathering tool.

The primary goals of the session are to help you better leverage the ACR and, indeed, to lean on current and future vendor partners a bit more than is common. Finally, the session will help identify process changes that can help share the work of vetting a Conformance Report and gather more information in less time.

Practical Skills

  • Examine three distinct techniques and tools that help to collect information about accessibility in candidate products.
  • Identify at least two ways to apply objective scores to the information collected.
  • Specify at least three ways to gain insight into candidate vendors' accessibility practice.