Message to CIO’s and the Organization Procurement Team: Should accessible solutions be included in the initial RFP?

Say it is time to upgrade/replace the organization’s phone system to keep up with the latest demands from the end users. You, as the CIO, have a lot of work to do; so you outsource the work involved in the request for proposal (RFP) process to an outside firm or individual.

As one might imagine, this is a very tedious and important job. Many things have to be considered when choosing the right phone system for the organization. Unfortunately, many times accessibility seems to be an afterthought. This is usually the case because the needs of the end users (employees) have not been surveyed. Here is what may likely happen if ADA and Section 508 compliant solutions are not included in the bid process.

The RFP consultant does his/her job and manages the proposal process and a phone system is chosen. On the seventh month after the new phone system has been deployed, an employee or number of employees, or even worse, a customer files a formal complaint. Who is on the hook? Not the outsourced firm or even the phone vendor (unless they made false promises regarding the phone system being compliant with the law). The likely candidate that will suffer the most is the CIO and/or procurement manager.

Accommodating individual user needs through custom solutions is more expensive than deploying a phone system with accessibility options included. The expense to retrofit includes research time, testing, implementing as well as the ongoing maintenance required for the non-standard, one-off patch. What usually hurts most is that these costs can be much higher after the phone system has been purchased and deployed. Why not take care of this up front and save a lot of time and effort and thus create an environment that promotes equal access. This way, the process of hiring and retaining valuable employees that all benefit from enhanced usability can be carried out efficiently and economically.

Many organizations take the RFP process in terms of accessibility to the next level by making the phone vendor/reseller prove their compliance. The Commonwealth of MA is one of them. Requiring proof of accessibility compliance during the procurement process is becoming more common as accessibility compliance is more frequently and stringently enforced.

CIOs and Procurement Managers must demand from the phone vendors and resellers that the phone system be accessible and compliant with the law up front and during the RFP process.

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