Working with Vendors: techniques to assess and ensure accessible products and services


Scheduled at 8:00am in Meadowbrook I/II on Wednesday, November 15 (2017).



  • Lisa Sawin, Director of User Experience & Digital Strategy, Yale University

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 1-hr
  • Format: Lecture
  • Expertise Level: Intermediate
  • Type of session: General Conference


Whether purchasing a license for an online platform or working with a digital agency to redesign a website, it is important to keep accessibility in mind. This session presents techniques for assessing the accessibility maturity of vendors and ensuring that the target level of accessibility is achieved.


In this presentation, we discuss language holding vendors accountable to include in both Requests for Proposals (RFPs) and when signing contracts. This language must often be adapted based on the vendor's accessibility maturity and product roadmap. We discuss when and how the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) can be helpful for this assessment. We also provide advice on how to address this topic in conversation with vendors, with specific questions and how the answers provided can give you valuable insight. We discuss how the different roles and organizations in higher ed can be involved in this process, and how responsibilities can be assigned to ensure success.


  1. RFPs and contracts can hold vendors accountable regardless of the vendor's accessibility maturity
  2. Assessing the accessibility maturity of a vendor requires a conversation
  3. Holding vendors accountable requires collaboration and accountability within the institution

Disability Areas

Cognitive/Learning, Deaf/Hard of Hearing, Mobility, Vision

Topic Areas

Administrative/Campus Policy, Legal, Uncategorized, Web/Media Access

Speaker Bio(s)

Lisa Sawin

As Director of User Experience & Digital Strategy at Yale Information Technology Services, Lisa leads a team of professionals providing strategic, user experience, and accessibility services. Her team supports the usability and accessibility of Yale’s website and web application portfolio through services ranging from user research to visual design to accessibility remediation. Lisa has been at Yale for 3 ½ years, with 14 years of experience in software development and IT leadership. Prior to Yale, she served as the principal Solutions Architect at iFactory. At iFactory, Lisa worked at the other side of the table from many higher-ed clients, acting as the technical voice of the project from the initial client meetings through planning, construction and delivery of the final website. Lisa’s began her career as a coder in a wide variety of environments, giving her a unique perspective on leading the UX & Digital Strategy team. Having worked with as diverse a group of tools as Ruby on Rails, Drupal, REALbasic and jQuery, Lisa has learned to identify which needs a technology can fill and how best to match the solution to the problem. Prior to her career in IT, Lisa studied theoretical mathematics and furniture making, and supported families through childbirth as a labor and delivery doula.