Working with vendors

To find out if a website is accessible, you can do the following tests yourself or request vendors to perform the following as part of their product demonstration:

Our goal is to have a plan in place for Nationwide’s websites and mobile applications to conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1 AA or most recent version) “standards”, and to have procedures to adhere to these guidelines moving forward. All those involved in providing solutions impacting our digital assets (including mobile, web applications, desktop UI, digital documents, or videos) will be asked to work toward this goal. Please use Nationwide Web Accessibility Minimum Requirements Checklist opens in a new page or go to W3C opens in a new page for complete reference. You can also ask your vendor if they have a VPAT for their products/services or ask them some of these questions.

Understanding VPAT

A VPAT, or Voluntary Product Accessibility Template opens in a new page, is a document that allows your company or organization to provide a comprehensive analysis of your conformance to accessibility standards set by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. The documentation template outlining key accessibility requirements and providing a structure for the vendor to outline the level of compliance and give explanatory remarks. The VPAT, available through procurement offices, was created by the Information Technology Industry Council so that contracting officials and other buyers can more easily make preliminary assessments on information technology products and service offerings. It can be a critical component of the RFP process for any organization (private or government) where accessibility (and by extension Section 508 compliance) is a key concern.

In other words, the VPAT is highly relevant to anyone who is a provider of electronic and information technology (EIT) that can or will be used by federal workers. Section 508 mandates that any product or technology used by federal employees must be compliant. If your product is being used by anyone directly or indirectly federally funded, you are by extension federally funded and the regulations might apply to you. In other words, it is very possible, in fact likely, that your organization is losing business opportunities by not being Section 508 compliant, or by not providing a VPAT that properly outlines their compliance.

Because there are many organizations that make use of a VPAT to assess vendor solutions and services in the procurement process, it is important to keep in mind how these organizations make their assessments, and what makes a good VPAT.