The focus on digital accessibility has increased with the evolution of technology and connected customers. Many teams are now more mature in achieving compliance and usability.
However, we have now moved into the intersection of digital accessibility, or lack thereof, when making purchasing decisions on software and technology.
In the realm of procurement, where organizations make critical decisions about the technologies they adopt for their consumers or employees, the role of accessibility reviews has gained significantly more awareness in the past year.
Accessibility needs to be more than a checkbox for procurement teams, but it also comes with significant challenges ensuring organizations are empowering their procurement teams with the resources and knowledge to ensure this can be managed effectively.
Within this article, we will outline the compelling reasons why integrating accessibility reviews into the procurement process is not just a legal obligation but a strategic imperative that paves the way for a more equitable, diverse, and forward-thinking future.
Importance of accessibility in procurement
When procuring goods, making accessibility a core consideration is strategically valuable beyond legal compliance. At this point, where digital experiences shape our interactions, personally and professionally, purchasing teams play a pivotal role in shaping the inclusivity of those experiences.
Prioritizing accessibility in the procurement process ensures that the products and services selected by teams across an organization – be it Human Resources, Marketing, Sales or IT just to name a few – are not only legally compliant but also resonate and can be used by a diverse audience regardless of ability.
Teams that embrace accessibility as a guiding principle demonstrate a commitment to social responsibility and an understanding that innovation is most impactful when it’s inclusive.
By making accessibility considerations an element of the software decision-making process, teams mitigate risks and ensure their employees and consumers will not be left behind.
What are the challenges with Procurement Accessibility?
Integrating accessibility into the procurement process poses challenges for teams. For starters, many procurement teams struggle with a lack of awareness regarding accessibility standards and guidelines, leading to either unintentional oversight of potential barriers or an unwillingness to adopt accessibility reviews into the standard purchasing process due to a lack of support.
The dynamic nature of technology and evolving standards add an additional layer of complexity. For many organizations, maintaining and staying up to date with emerging trends and guidelines related to accessibility for their core websites, applications and customer-facing documents is hard enough for digital and technical teams.
Resource constraints, tight timelines, and competing priorities in the procurement process strongly impede teams from dedicating the necessary attention and resources to accessibility considerations.
Additionally, there is the common misconception that prioritizing accessibility is synonymous with sacrificing design and product features or incurring additional costs can hinder teams from fully embracing this critical aspect of decision-making.
Overcoming these challenges requires a conscious effort to foster accessibility awareness, training and instill a mindset across the organization that views accessibility not as a nice to have, but as a fundamental driver of consumer and employee satisfaction.
Procurement accessibility and VPATs
In our conversations with procurement professionals this year, we encountered a common theme related to accessibility requirements in vendor procurement. Many of them simply ask the vendor for a VPAT on their software or product. However, is this approach enough to ensure accessibility compliance, or are there any potential pitfalls associated with it?
While the request of a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) by a vendor is a clear and positive step towards transparency, procurement (and accessibility), teams must recognize that it’s not always sufficient for ensuring product accessibility.
For starters, as the “V” defines, a VPAT is voluntary. A VPAT, by nature, is a self-disclosure document where vendors can assess their own product’s conformance with the WCAG success criteria.
Read more: What is a VPAT and why is it important?
However, relying solely on a vendor’s self-assessment may not accurately represent the user experience for individuals with disabilities. Organizations often find that the finer points of accessibility and usability require expert testing by users living with disabilities and whom have a deep knowledge in the standards published by the W3C.
Furthermore, without independent validation and testing, there is a significant risk of overlooking potential barriers that could impact users in real-world scenarios for the sake of ‘making the sale’.
In order to effectively use a VPAT as a first step in assessing a product’s accessibility, procurement teams should ensure that if they do require a VPAT, it was completed by a third-party accessibility vendor that includes people with disabilities in their testing of the product.
For more in-depth information on obtaining or assessing VPATs, please review our recent webinar on this topic.
How does ProcureEnsure solve this challenge?
To help remove the strain and challenges on procurement teams, related to purchasing accessible software and digital products, Allyant has developed a new service offering called ProcureEnsure.
We created this service through discussions and feedback with accessibility professionals from organizations that are considered leaders in their respective fields, as well as in support of Disability:IN’s Procure Access program (with whom Allyant is a corporate partner).
Our ProcureEnsure service offers an accessibility assessment through live-user testing. We ensure that digital software or technology your team is looking to procure for use by your consumers or employees conforms to accessibility standards and is user-friendly.
This could include but is not limited to, software such as a consumer onboarding system, website chatbot, human resources platform, employee training platform, or any other third-party software or product you may place on your website, mobile application or require your employees to leverage as part of their role within your organization.
Best of all, our organization offers this service to you completely free of charge!
How can you use ProcureEnsure?
You can visit our ProcureEnsure page and sign up through the form – we’d be happy to chat through how to integrate ProcureEnsure into your purchasing process immediately.
We have resources built to make this service as seamless as possible for your team to integrate in your standard procurement processes without extending timelines or creating more work for anyone internally on your end. Moreover, by using our service, you will be able to procure accessibility technology immediately and take a significant step forward in ensuring accessibility for your organization.
It’s important to avoid situations where you discover that the software you just signed a three-year agreement for is unusable by your customers or employees. In such cases, you will have little to no leverage in ensuring that the third-party vendor prioritizes accessibility.