Procuring Accessible Digital Material
The procurement of accessible digital material expresses Carolina’s commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive digital experience. All purchases used for university business must consider the accessibility of the products being made available to our campus community. This is especially important for campus-wide systems and other technologies that impact a large number of students, faculty, and/or staff.
Examples of Digital Material
- Video and audio content
- Electronic documents
- Desktop, mobile, and cloud-based software applications
- Content management systems and learning management systems
- Interactive tools and platforms
- Library resources
- Digital research products
- Digital content and materials used in a course
Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT)
A Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT), is a standard format for vendors to report the accessibility of their products. VPATs are an important aspect to help ensure accessibility for hardware, software, and services. VPATs provides a method to review an application or software for accessibility features.
VPAT Overall Structure
In the first section of any VPAT, the vendor is asked to provide some basic information:
- Name of Product/Version
- Product Description
- Contact Information
- Evaluation Methods Used
- Applicable Standards/Guidelines
The next major area is the WCAG 2.x Report. Each section has a Criteria, Conformance Level, and Remarks and Explanations section.
The Criteria column is mapped to the WCAG requirement. This is to reduce ambiguity for the vendor when mapping these older standards to WCAG.
Within Conformance Level, the template breaks down the components that might up a product. It is at the vendor’s discretion to use one of the following conformance levels on all components that apply:
- Supports: The functionality of the product has at least one method that meets the criterion without known defects or meets with equivalent facilitation.
- Supports with Exceptions: Some functionality of the product does not meet the criterion.
- Does Not Support: The majority of product functionality does not meet the criterion.
- Not Applicable: The criterion is not relevant to the product.
- Not Evaluated: The product has not been evaluated against the criterion. This can be used only in WCAG 2.0 Level AAA.
The instructions for the final column, Remarks and Explanations attempt to further tighten reporting.
Per UNC Digital Accessibility Policy, when searching for products for purchase, a university unit initiating the procurement must attempt to obtain a copy of the Product’s Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT). If the purchase is greater than or equal to $5,000 AND the intended user base is greater than 100 people, the university unit must ensure the contract with the vendor includes assurances of continued accessibility as a product is updated and new releases become available.
Working with Vendors
Request a VPAT from vendors. A VPAT gives you a baseline to determine whether the vendor has built an accessible product. If the vendor does not have a VPAT or affirmation that demonstrates accessibility, request a Digital Accessibility Office Procurement Support Service Request.
Some technology products are exempt from the Accessibility Standards for Procurement. These exceptions include minimal use, fundamental alteration, or undue burden. However, each exception does require an Equally Effective Alternative.
- University of North Carolina: Digital Accessibility Policy
- University of North Carolina: Accessibility Standards for Procurement of Digital Content, Resources, and Technology
- MicroAssist: Introducing VPAT 2.0, the More Stringent Accessibility Reporting Tool Required for Government
- Section 508 General Services Administration: Request Accessibility Information from Vendors & Contractors
- Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC) VPAT Template (Version 2.4 blank example)