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.
Identifying the Correct Versions
ITI updates the VPAT and ACR every few years to confirm with the latest standards and regulations, so you’ll want to check that you are using the correct version. The most recent versions can be found on ITI’s website. If you aren’t sure which standards to use, explore this article.
There are four different editions of the VPAT. These different versions enable ICT manufacturers and vendors to create Accessibility Conformance Reports focused on the standards relevant to specific markets and contract requirements.
The versions include:
- Section 508, the U.S. Federal accessibility standard
- WCAG, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
- EU, tied to EN 301 549, the European Union’s “accessibility requirements suitable for public procurement of ICT products and services in Europe.”
- INT, a unified version that incorporates all three of the above standards