PROCUREMENT Q&A: How do I tie accessibility procurement language to integrated quality assurance testing?
This article was developed as part of
The Accessibility Switchboard Project
National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute
June 2018, Version 2.0
Creative Commons License: CC BY-SA 4.0
How do I tie procurement language to integrated quality assurance testing?
Include in your solicitations reference to the publicly available test process that your accessibility team and contracted developers agree upon.
In-Depth Answer: How do I tie accessibility procurement language to integrated quality assurance testing?
What are the odds?
Procurement is a game of chance. If I buy this product, how likely is it that it will work for me? It’s the same sort of question we ask ourselves about any purchase. Will this microwave oven serve my cooking needs? Will this new enterprise computer system meet our organization’s needs?
Imagine not having any ability to predict the outcome of your choices. When a blind individual puts a dollar into a drink vending machine, historically and even today there’s no way to know what flavor drink they’ll get. That’s why many in the blind community refer to it as ‘vending machine roulette’. (What if there was a technology that could be employed to make the vending machine talk?)
In procurement, the aim is to increase your odds of winning by making a list of appropriate requirements, and then going through a methodical process to assure yourself that you have made the best choice. If the vendor offers guarantees, all the better.
For a long time, accessibility procurement language looked a bit like this:
Customer’s RFP: [Blah Blah Blah] … and the software must be accessible to people with disabilities… [Blah Blah Blah]
Vendor: Oh sure, yes, it will be accessible. Sure thing. Honest. Trust us.
In other words:
Customer: I’d like a cola. I need some caffeine.
Vending machine: Here’s a bottle of water. Enjoy!
Thankfully, times have changed…
ICT testing, standards, and procurment
There are a large number of providers of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) accessibility testing tools and processes. Each type of approach has its pros and cons (see our companion article comparing testing approaches in the ‘Related Sections of the Accessibility Switchboard’, below). There is an accepted (de facto) industry standard for the performance of ICT, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. However, there is no industry standard for testing ICT. The coverage of WCAG 2.0 by various available test tools and methods varies. Therefore, the claims of the developers of the test tools and methods must be evaluated individually by ICT customers and vendors involved in procurement. Even though there is no current standard for testing, the key thing to know is that it is now possible, in procurement documentation, to refer to an actual test process that covers WCAG 2.0. A proof of concept assertion is in marked contrast to the less effective (and spartan) historic language of “[it] must be accessible to people with disabilities”.
Note: In US Federal Government procurement circles, one of the main communication vehicles between vendors and customers has been the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT). For over a decade, this document didn’t make any reference to how the product was tested (i.e., on what basis the underlying claims of accessibility were assessed). In March of 2018, the VPAT was updated to include—as a best practice suggestion—to include testing / evaluation methodologies employed. It now also uses the name ‘Accessibility Conformance Report’.
Resourceitem">A resource for understanding accessibility issues that relate to procurement…
The Buy ICT 4 All Information Portal is a web resource from G3ict (the Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs). The resource contains descriptions of, and links to, public procurement and policy guidance, as well as ICT Accessibility Standards and Guidance. Case studies and other resources supplement these materials.
QA and QC testing: Shared understanding and shared language
Quality Control (QC) is what happens before you let a product out of the door. Quality Assurance (QA) is what happens while you are in the process of designing, developing and testing your product. (Good QA eases QC; and QC without QA is ineffective in practice.) Our question in this article concerns tying procurement language to actual QA tests that happen throughout development. In the case of buying a finished product, you are assessing the whether the product meets your business needs which will include accessibility requirements. The vendor may choose, via a VPAT, to share test results as a result of their final QC process. In the case buying development systems or platforms, and buying development services for creating customized ICT, it is about assuring that the appropriate QA will take place during development. These needs are expressed through procurement language, and it is important that the various stakeholders involved share a common language and a common understanding.
Having a shared understanding of what will be tested and how provides those involved with a higher degree of confidence that accessibility will be adequately addressed in the purchasing of (or development of) ICT systems. Referencing a specific test process in the RFP and supporting documentation is a way of demonstrating shared understanding between all who are affected.
A resource for understanding the interconnectedness of procurement processes and published accessibility test methods…
Procurement as a Vehicle for Meeting Organizational IT Accessibility Objectives is a webinar by Chris Law, hosted by AccessGA. In the webinar the relative merits and pros and cons of different kinds of test process are discussed.
What’s happening in QA now? What do you want to happen in the future?
Once the relevant team members have (a) a good grasp of accessibility requirements; (b) a testing tool and test method options; and (c) there is a shared language / shared understanding between stakeholders, there are nominally three additional steps needed to ‘tie accessibility procurement language to integrated quality assurance testing’:
- Evaluate what is happening now in your systems for QA in ICT development, and whether they include accessibility testing;
- Evaluate the requirements that are now possible to consider regarding integration of accessibility in ICT QA testing; and
- Incorporate the desired requirements into RFPs, any IV&V (Independent Verification and Validation) activities, and subsequent purchasing and implementation decisions in the organization’s QA processes, including reference to specific accessibility QA test processes.
A resource for understanding the steps involved in conducting accessible ICT procurement tasks…
Accessible Technology: It Starts with Procurement is an article by Jeff Kline, hosted by the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT). For those who are new to the concepts of procurement of accessible ICT, the article describes step by step elements such as market research, and reviewing solicitation responses.
About this article
This article is published as part of The Accessibility Switchboard Project, an initiative of the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute with support from the members of the Accessibility Switchboard Project Community Of Practice, and from the Maryland Department of Disabilities.
The Accessibility Switchboard Project. PROCUREMENT Q&A: How do I tie accessibility procurement language to integrated quality assurance testing?. June 2018, Version 2.0. National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute. Available: https://accessibilityswitchboard.org/
Note: A previous version of this article was published on the Accessibility Switchboard project website, under the title ‘Q&A: I’ve been told to make sure the things I procure are accessible. How do I do this?’ (Version 1.0)
Feedback, additions and updates
The authors welcome feedback on this and other articles in the Accessibility Switchboard. Use the feedback form to provide updates, new case studies, and links to new and emerging resources in this area. The feedback form can also be used to join the mailing list for notification of new content and updates from the Accessibility Switchboard.
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