Talking with Vendors about Accessibility

What Yale units should keep in mind when working with a vendor on websites and web applications.


Whether working with a digital agency to redesign your website or purchasing a license for an online platform, it is important to keep accessibility in mind. Launching your new website compliant with WCAG 2 Level AA guidelines eliminates the need to redesign the website in the future. To hold vendors accountable, include requirements for compliance with accessibility guidelines in both Requests for Proposals (RFPs) and contracts. Assessing the accessibility maturity of a vendor and the compliance of their products requires a conversation. This page provides advice on how to address this topic with vendors. Language for use in RFPs and Contacts can also be found on this site.

Assessing Accessibility Compliance

When licensing an off-the-shelf product, Yale units should always request that the vendor provide a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) aligned to WCAG 2 for the version of the product that Yale is licensing. Yale asks that such vendors disclose any known issues related to accessibility conformance and a timeline (including dates) in their VPAT specifying when such issues will be resolved.

Some vendors may have VPATs aligned to an older version of Section 508 accessibility standards. In such cases, Yale units should ask that a vendor provide a new VPAT aligned to WCAG 2, as those are more appropriate for Yale contracts.

Vendors may be directed to Yale’s page on VPATs for more information.

When working with a vendor to design a custom website or application, there is no work product to assess at the time of the contract. It is especially important in these cases to thoroughly assess the vendor’s accessibility maturity. It is not acceptable for a vendor to use only automated tools to verify compliance. Automated tools are helpful in identifying accessibility issues, but should not be relied on to find all issues in any website or web application. A conversation with vendors is necessary to fully understand their ability to achieve accessibility standards. This conversation is also important when a VPAT is available, to determine the reliability of the information it documents. Including language holding vendors to accessibility compliance within contracts involving any type of web interface will allow site owners to rely on vendor support when the policy is adopted.

Here are some questions that can be used when speaking with vendors:

  • Do you assess your product for compliance with WCAG 2 Level AA?
    • Good answer: Yes.
    • Bad answer: No.
  • If yes, how do you assess for compliance with WCAG AA, i.e. do you use automated tools, a checklist, expert review, user testing, review with a screen reader such as JAWS?
    • Good answer: A combination of many methods or a reliance on an outside expert.
    • Bad answer: A reliance only on automated testing.
  • At what points in the design and development process do you assess for compliance with WCAG AA?
    • Good answer: Frequent assessment throughout a project’s lifecycle.
    • Bad answer: Immediately prior to launch.
  • Can you provide a VPAT aligned to the WCAG AA requirements?
    • Good answer: Yes.
    • Bad answer: No.
  • If your product is not compliant, do you have a roadmap to achieving compliance?
    • Good answer: A roadmap with dates for delivery of all identified issues
    • Bad answer: No, or a roadmap which is not specific and measurable