Procurement Process

If you are contracting with someone outside Harvard to develop, host or otherwise manage or provide any technology or online component (e.g., a website, mobile application, or related platform) intended for use or access by Harvard students, alumni, faculty, staff, applicants, prospective students, or members of the public generally, please ask the vendor / contractor to sign Harvard’s Accessibility Rider available on the Harvard OGC Model Documents webpage. Please contact Harvard's Office of the General Counsel (OGC) for additional language or contract questions regarding accessibility.


Web products or services procured by Harvard must meet an acceptable level of accessibility. The selection process for products and services supplied by third-parties will take into account level of accessibility support, and the effort that Harvard would need to undertake to address accessibility shortcomings present in the product or service. If you're looking at selecting or procuring third-party web products and services, you should be looking for information about the accessibility of those products or services. Digital Accessibility Services (DAS) has additional guidance on how to determine if a website vendor will be able to adhere to Harvard’s accessibility policy guidelines in their work. 

Follow the steps outlined below during the procurement process of digital technology products:

1. Vendor Consideration

  • If the process includes multiple vendors competing for the project, a Request for Proposal (RFP) is typically sent to each of the vendors.
  • The RFP should include, at a minimum, the following set of accessibility-related questions.

     Vendor RFP Accessibility Questions (MS Word document)

2. Vendor Selection

  • When the number of vendors has been shortened, the next step is to ask for a VPAT 2.4 (Vendor Product Accessibility Template) from each of the vendors.
  • If the vendor does not have a completed VPAT 2.4, then, Harvard’s WCAG 2.1 Vendor Checklist can be sent. It includes the same guideline questions as the VPAT 2.4 in a more streamlined format.

3. Vendor Contract

  • Once the vendor selection has been reduced to one or two contenders, the next step is to include the accessibility rider developed by Harvard’s Office of General Counsel (OGC).
  • Here’s a link to the Rider from the OGC website.

4. Related Actions

a. If the vendor does not accept an Accessibility Rider in the contract, then a Temporary Exception Form needs to be completed.

  • Once the Temporary Exception Form is completed, it needs to be signed by the CIO of the School or Department.
  • The signed form should be attached to a Service Now ticket as explained on the exception form.

b. If, for some reason, the vendor product is not accessible, the vendor needs to supply a written roadmap that outlines the deficiencies and a date     by which each will be fixed. The Roadmap should be included in the contract.

  • The business or product owner should meet in person or by conference call with the vendor every six months to assess their progress on fixing the issues identified in the roadmap.

5. Signed Contract

Once the contract is signed, it should be submitted to Total Contract Manager, Strategic Procurement's contract management tool, along with:

  • Any contract riders, in particular, the Accessibility Rider.
  • The vendor’s completed VPAT 2.1 statement (or WCAG 2.0 checklist).
  • Temporary Exception Form, if one was required.
  • Roadmap, if not included in the contract.
  • Any accessibility-related materials, e.g., third-party test results.

6. Contract Renewal

  • Request an updated VPAT 2.x from the vendor. (See Step 2 above.)
  • Confirm that Roadmap issues have been fixed. (See Step 4.b above.)
  • Ensure that an updated Accessibility Rider is included in the contract renewal. (See step 3 above).

For any questions related to this process or for questions about digital accessibility in general, send your questions to: with the subject line pre-pended with ‘Digital Accessibility’ <title of your request>.

Vendor Guide Example

The Big Ten Academic Alliance -- ITAG Vendor Group authored a Vendor Guide to Web Accessibility in June 2016 and has made it publically available. The Guide contains excellent content for both vendors and higher education institutions.