5. Procurement and Accessibility Policy
Now that you have a contractual agreement in place with a particular vendor, you will want to maintain a working relationship with them through which any accessibility issues that may be introduced into the product, either through software updates or through issues discovered after the contract is in place, can be resolved with minimal aggravation.
Fortunately, with the introduction of accessibility laws in many jurisdictions, vendors and suppliers are becoming more aware of accessibility issues and recognize that improving the accessibility of their products is good for business. As such, vendors are often receptive to accessibility improvements to their products. Your organization can potentially provide free user testing through feedback from your own employees or clients.
Talking About Web Accessibility with Vendors
How you approach your discussion of accessibility with vendors will vary depending on the level of awareness the vendor already has. You should already have an idea of the vendor’s understanding through the assessments you have already done, reviewing the company’s website, and if you are at the proposal stage, through responses to the requirements laid out in the RFP.
You will generally want to start the accessibility discussion right at the beginning of the procurement process. If there is work to be done to improve accessibility, the best approach is to address it from the start, rather than having to go back and retrofit after other details of a potential contract have been worked through.
There are several approaches to the accessibility discussion with vendors, which range from:
- Putting the onus on your company, the procuring organization, and its responsibility to provide accessible products and service (We can’t buy from you if you are not accessible)
- Stating the business case, selling the idea that accessibility is good for the vendor through increased sales and improved efficiency (Your revenues will increase, and/or your costs will decrease)
- Stating the legal case, reducing the likelihood of legal action for discriminating against people with disabilities (You are less likely to be sued)
- Making the social-conscience case or positioning the vendor as a company that should demonstrate corporate responsibility. (It’s the right thing to do)
The above may all sound familiar to you if you think back to the business cases introduced early in this book. There are a number of other discussions you can employ to build a vendor’s accessibility awareness:
- Accessibility is practice, not a touch-up. Addressing accessibility from the start requires little extra effort once you know what you’re doing. Retrofitting can be difficult, expensive, or even impossible.
- Standards are clear, and adopted all over the world. Companies are adopting standards such as WCAG as a business advantage. Many buyers have accessibility at the top of their procurement requirements, and will often skip over suppliers that are not addressing it.
- Show your accessibility. For those in the U.S., if you do not have a VPAT, it will likely affect your bottom line. Purchasers may bypass your company if they can’t find one. In other areas of the world, providing an “accessibility statement” demonstrates to purchaser’s that accessibility is a priority, and a well-thought-out statement is more likely to cause purchasers to look at your company more closely.
- We can help you become accessible. If your organization knows what it needs in terms of accessibility, share that knowledge with potential partner vendors and educate them as part of the process of improving the accessibility of their products so they match the needs of your organization.