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Play 8: Integrate accessibility needs into market research and acquisition processes

The following play identifies how to ensure accessibility needs are identified and addressed in the planning, requirements gathering, research, evaluation, and acceptance components of the acquisition process.

Key Questions

  • How does your agency ensure Section 508 legal compliance requirements are properly included in solicitation language?
  • What steps does your agency take to validate Section 508 conformance claims? Is the level of due diligence adequate to mitigate the potential compliance risk?
  • How does your agency ensure it supports legal obligations to purchase digital services and technology solutions that “meet or best meets” the Section 508 requirements.

Basic Checklist

General Preparation:

  • Study the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), particularly parts that specifically address 508 (Sections 10, 11, 12.2, and 39.2). The accessibility requirements in FAR were updated in 2021 to align with the “Revised 508 Standards”.
  • Identify and understand your agency’s acquisition policies and procedures used to acquire technology.
  • Determine if adequate consideration of Section 508 Standards is already included in these policies and procedures – if not work with the appropriate stakeholders to change this.
  • Develop criteria for when and how accessibility and Section 508 requirements, exceptions, terms and conditions, evaluation methods, acceptance criteria, and related proposal response requirements are included in solicitations.
    • Ensure Contracting Officers know what to expect from the Requiring Officials related to Section 508 requirements.
    • Ensure the Requiring Office includes the appropriate accessibility requirements in the solicitation language.
    • Ensure Requiring Officials know when and who to contact for accessibility guidance.
  • Establish a formal Section 508 compliance determination process. Use the process to document compliance decisions. Support decisions with relevant Section 508 artifacts (Market Research, VPATs, Section 508 Exceptions, test results, and “best meets” determinations.)
    • Provide for independent expert reviews of Section 508 exception and vendor accessibility claims prior to award.
    • Use a risk based model to determine when independent testing is required to validate vendor conformance claims.
    • Provide authority to the Section 508 Program Team to stop any contract or application that puts the agency at significant risk.
  • Create a governance process to ensure Section 508 conformance is an evaluation factor in award decisions.
  • Provide a process to track and monitor accessibility assurance activities and Section 508 compliance determinations for all agency technology procurements.
  • Develop a process for planning and implementing an “alternative means” when a fully accessible solution is not procured.

For each technology procurement:

  • Work with Program Managers or Requiring Officials to define, review, and approve determinations of applicable Section 508 standards and/or exceptions when they apply.
  • Consider accessibility needs in market research.
  • Draft Section 508 contract language and accessibility terms and conditions when needed. Refer to Play 7 for information on defining applicable Section 508 standards and additional requirements needed to address access by individuals with disabilities).
  • Ensure contract evaluation plans include accessibility, and define the Section 508 subject matter expert role on the Technical Evaluation Panel.
  • Require vendors to provide detailed responses to accessibility requirements in the Statement of Work.
  • Validate Section 508 accessibility conformance claims in bid proposals through expert review or testing.
    • If another agency claims a product is Section 508 conformant, ask if the agency used Section 508 test processes endorsed by the CIO Council Accessibility Community of Practice, and where applicable using testers certified through the DHS trusted tester program. If these conditions are met, consider accepting the other agency’s Section 508 determination to streamline the evaluation process.
    • Validate vendor Section 508 conformance claims through expert analysis. Example documentation for conformance claims includes Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates (VPATs) Government Product Accessibility Templates (GPATs) for conformance.
    • When testing is warranted, perform testing prior to award for commercially available digital services and technology solutions, and prior to deployment for solutions that are developed, customized, and/or integrated with other technology components post award. For more information on testing, see play 10.
  • Provide documentation of Section 508 conformance claims, expert analysis and test findings to the Contracting Official.
  • Ensure Section 508 requirements are addressed in award decisions. If no product(s) fully meets the applicable Section 508 standards, document which product(s) “best meet” the applicable Section 508 standards [2].
  • Conduct an alternative means assessment when purchased products do not meet standards.
  • Ensure post-award contract acceptance activities established in the solicitation are followed.
  • Develop and track the provision of an alternative means or remediation/accommodation plan when a fully accessible solution is not procured.

Advanced Checklist

  • Provide contract language to ensure penalties are applied when accessibility standards are not met, or require remediation at contractor expense.
  • Establish language and processes for Blanket Purchase agreements and other Task Order-based vehicles.
  • Establish processes for assessing the maturity of vendor’s accessibility program during market research and proposal evaluations.
  • Conduct post procurement reviews and audits to validate conformance to accessibility procedures and use data to improve the procurement process for accessible products.
  • Engage in vendor outreach through the CIO Council Accessibility Community of Practice.
  • Engage peers in the Section 508 community regarding other agencies’ experiences with the product or vendor.


[2] According to the Section 508 standards, part 1194.2, “ (b) When procuring a product, each agency shall procure products which comply with the provisions in this part when such products are available in the commercial marketplace or when such products are developed in response to a Government solicitation.  Agencies cannot claim a product as a whole is not commercially available because no product in the marketplace meets all the standards.  If products are commercially available that meet some but not all of the standards, the agency must procure the product that best meets the standards.”

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