GSA Government-wide Section 508 Accessibility Program

How to Request Accessibility Information from Vendors and Contractors

These best practices can help you determine what information you need to request from potential vendors and contractors (offerors) about accessible information and communication technology (ICT) prior to award. ICT includes such things as software, hardware, electronic content, support documentation & services. The information can be tailored for various types of solicitations.

The information you request will differ, depending on whether the ICT item is standard commercial or government off-the-shelf (COTS/GOTS) (“Standard”), or customized or developed based on agency requirements (“Customized”).

Process Overview

For EACH ICT item, determine whether the item is Standard or Customized, then identify the requirements and exceptions, and instruct offerors on how to respond.

  1. Identify each ICT item in your solicitation. The Revised 508 Standards Applicability Checklist can help you with this.
    1. Instructions - Revised 508 Standards Applicability Checklist - step-by-step guidance on how to complete the Checklist
    2. Revised 508 Standards Applicability Checklist (MS-Word, September 2017)
  2. For EACH ICT item, specify applicable requirements and exceptions. You may want to complete a chart for each ICT item, which you can copy and paste directly into your solicitation document.
    1. Applicable 508 Standards and Exceptions Chart - instructions and examples
    2. Applicable 508 Standards and Exceptions Chart - Template (MS-Word, September 2017)
  3. Provide written instructions to offerors on how to respond to the applicable ICT accessibility requirements. [NOTE - this information is being developed.]

You may wish to provide additional written instruction on any other items offerors should include in their report. Consider the acquisition size, complexity, and impact on users with disabilities, when determining which items are needed. Clarify whether any, or all, requirements must be provided in order to be considered for award.

Standard ICT Items - Required Steps

Complete this step for EACH Standard COTS/GOTS ICT item

Require the offeror to provide:

  • A Supplemental Accessibility Report (SAR) containing the following information:
    • Description of any evaluation methods used to produce the ACR, to help reviewers understand the due diligence that went into supporting conformance claims.
    • Documentation of features that help achieve accessibility and usability for persons with disabilities.
    • Information on core functions that can’t be used by persons with disabilities.
    • Information on how to configure and install the ICT item to support accessibility.
    • For authoring tools that generate content (documents, reports, videos, multimedia, web content, etc.), provide information on how the ICT item enables the creation of accessible electronic content that conforms to the Revised 508 Standards, including the range of accessible user interface elements the tool can create.

Recommended Steps

Also consider requiring the offeror to provide:

  • A demonstration of some or all items in the solicitation that conform to the agency’s accessibility requirements.
  • Remediation plans for features that don’t fully conform to the Revised 508 Standards.
  • Accessibility improvement plans related to the ICT products or services they’re offering.
  • A description of training they can provide to users on the accessibility features of the ICT products and services, as well as any associated training costs not included in the baseline proposal.
  • When an ICT item is an authoring tool(s) that generates content (documents, reports, videos, multimedia, web content, etc.), provide the following:
    • Samples of accessible electronic content produced by the tool(s). Consider requesting samples that include a full range of user interface elements generated by the tool.
    • A demonstration of how the commercially available tool(s) support creating accessible content.
    • Information on the documentation available for authors on how the tool(s) can produce and validate accessible electronic content.
  • State that the agency reserves the right, prior to making an award decision, to perform testing on some or all of the offeror’s proposed ICT items to ensure the accuracy of their response. State that if the agency requests the opportunity to perform hands-on testing, the offeror shall provide the following:
    • Final commercially available release versions in terms of functionality and features.
    • Accessibility Test Plan illustrating “typical” user scenarios and tasks to ensure fair and accurate testing of offered solutions. This test plan can be used to help the agency perform its testing of the ICT product or service being offered.
  • Consider also stating:
    • Trial versions of ICT products or services won’t be considered for testing purposes, since some features or functionality may not yet be available, and would likely not deliver accurate testing results.
    • Upon award, any ICT product provided for testing by all unsuccessful offerors will be returned at the offeror’s expense. The successful offeror’s ICT product(s) will be kept and accounted for in any resultant order, if applicable. If an order isn’t imminent, the successful offeror’s ICT product shall also be returned, at the offeror’s expense.

If a maximum page count is required for submissions, exclude the accessibility information from the page count limitation, to allow offerors to report complete supporting data.

Customized ICT Items - Required Steps

Complete this step for EACH Customized ICT item

  • Require the offeror to provide a written Accessibility Conformance Statement describing how the item(s) will fully address the accessibility requirements outlined in the solicitation.
  • Also require a description of the evaluation methods the offeror will use to validate for conformance to the Revised 508 Standards.
  • Advise offerors that each requirement must be fully addressed in order to be considered for award.

Recommended Steps

Developed In-House

Consider requiring the offeror to provide this additional information for each ICT item customized or developed in-house:

  • A description of training they can provide on how to use the accessibility features of the ICT product and services, as well as any associated training costs not included in the baseline proposal.
  • Their approaches to incorporating universal design principles to ensure their ICT products or services are designed to support all users.

Customized COTS/GOTS

If the offeror’s proposed items are substantially comprised of COTS/GOTS ICT products or services that will be configured or modified to meet contract requirements, consider requiring the offeror to provide the following:

  • A written Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR) for each ICT item, based on the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template Version 2.0 provided by the Industry Technology Industry Council (ITIC) for COTS items that will be configured or modified to meet contract requirements. To be considered for award, the ACR must be complete, and submitted according to the instructions provided by ITIC.
  • A demonstration of the COTS items that will be configured or modified to meet contract requirements. Request the offeror to address, during the demonstration, how they will configure or maintain the solution to ensure support for the agency’s accessibility requirements.
  • When the solicitation requires ICT items that will be used to generate electronic content (documents, reports, videos, multimedia, web content, etc.), and the offeror may use COTS authoring tools as a substantial component in their solution, consider requiring the offeror to provide:
    • Samples of accessible electronic content produced by the authoring tools.
    • A demonstration of how the commercially available authoring tools will enable the creation of accessible content “out of the box”, including a full range of user interface elements that can be generated by the tool.  
  • State that the agency reserves the right to perform testing on COTS items that will be configured or modified to meet contract requirements.
    • Consider requiring the offeror to provide commercially available release versions (full functionality and features).  
    • Consider also stating that upon award, any ICT product provided for testing by all will be returned at the offeror’s expense.  

If a maximum page count is required for submissions, exclude the accessibility information from the page count limitation to allow for complete supporting data to be reported.

These best practices were developed by the U.S. Federal Government Revised 508 Standards Transition Workgroup. Members include the U.S. Federal CIO Council Accessibility Community of Practice, the U.S. Access Board, and the General Services Administration.

Page Reviewed/Updated: September 2017