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Best Practices in Accessibility for Purchasing and Marketing E-Resources: Purchasing and VPAT & GPAT Statements

Library Acquisitions

Acquisition units purchase all formats of monographs, serials, databases, media, software, IT equipment, furniture and is involved in the licensing of electronic resources. The question remains how this unit could assure materials were consistently ADA compliant prior to purchasing? Recommended is the California State University's website on accessible procurement procedures for information technology resources and services.


The Department of Education: Office of Civil Rights, released an FAQ in May 2011 to emphasize that the prohibition against the purchase of inaccessible technology also applied to libraries and K-12 schools. In a May 2013 letter, the Department of Education reaffirmed its position that a school would be in violation of federal law if it adopted non-accessible technology.

Request for Proposals

During the procurement process a library can also request a response regarding the product's ability to meet accessibility needs in a Request For Proposals (RFP's), vendor bids to procure a services through their product. RFP’s are commonplace for libraries when securing expensive purchases with vendors that require the best value with the most service.

Library Policy Statements

Library policies, in particular collection development policies, are including statements about accessibility and inclusion at the library. An example is below:

The College of Staten Island Library is committed to complying with relevant ADA standards, Section 504, Section 508 and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) in the selection, maintenance, and access to its collections. In the development and/or the procurement of online resources, the library will consider resources that are accessible and useable to all. Collection development decision-making will also consider product’s usability with assistive technology, accessible alternatives, and accessibility documentation from vendors.


Library Web Site Policy Statements regarding accessibility and design guidelines are also important to a library. An example of a statement is from the University Library at California State University Long Beach.  

Accessibility and E-Books

"What is a DAISY book?

A DAISY book can be explained as a set of digital files that includes:

  • One or more digital audio files containing a narration of part or all of the source text;
  • A marked up file containing some or all of the text (optional);
  • A synchronization file to relate markings in the text file with time points in the audio file; and
  • A navigation control file which enables the user to move smoothly between files while synchronization between text and audio is maintained.

The DAISY Standard allows the producing agency full flexibility regarding the mix of text and audio ranging from audio-only, to full text and audio, to text-only."


VPAT/ GPAT Statements

The Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) was originally required by the federal government to enable the comparison of how vendor products and services conform to Section 508, is now being used by libraries to support accessibility. Libraries for Universal Accessibility (LUA) have create a VPAT repository for libraries. An sampling is below:


  • Alexander Street Press's VPAT
  • EBSCO's VPAT- Available Upon Request 
  • Elsevier's (ScienceDirect) VPAT
  • IEEE's (Xplore) VPAT- Available Upon Request
  • Kanopy's  VPAT
  • Lexis Nexis Academic's VPAT
  • OCLC's (WorldCat) VPAT
  • Oxford's (Reference Online) VPAT
  • Palgrave's VPAT
  • Project Muse's VPAT  
  • ProQuest's VPAT
  • Sage's (CQ Researcher) VPAT

While a VPAT reflects the accessibility features of a vendor's product, the Government Product Accessibility Template (GPAT) reflects the government accessibility requirements for the type of electronic resource an agency intends to buy.


Although VPAT statements can be a helpful start when evaluating e-resources for their accessibility features, however, they can be difficult to understand and may not always be reliable. A VPAT statement should not preclude usability testing when evaluating e-resources. California State LA provides training materials about evaluating VPAT's.  

Quick Guide to VPAT's

A Completed VPAT has

  • Vendor contact information.

  • 1194.31 filled out. This section focus' on the functional performance of the product.

  • Applicable section filled-out (e.g., .21 for local software, .22 for web, others).

  • 1194.41 filled out. This section focus' on vendor support. Important is 1194.41c. A vendor should provide help or service of some sort.

The VPAT Columns

  • (Left) Criteria.

  • (Middle) Supporting Features.

  • (Right) Remarks and Explanations. Good vendors should give you an idea that they actually assessed the product.

If a product fails the VPAT requirements, then consider drawing-up an Equally Effective Alternate Access Plan (EEAAP). These documents will explore whether a product can be fixed by the vendor or whether there are any workarounds. Review California State's University interactive guide to understanding all sections of a VPAT.

Video Purchasing Requirements

W3C has guidelines to following regarding Multimedia Accessibility:

  • Closed Captioning (audio-only recordings do not require captions)
  • Transcripts Provided/ Interactive
  • Text to Voice
  • Audio Descriptions

Accessibility and E-Readers

There have been challenges to implementing e-readers in academic libraries due to the failure of many of these devices being accessible. In 2010, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) and the US Departments of Justice and Education entered into settlement agreements and lawsuits regarding e-readers that did not provide accessibility features, i.e, Kindle DX. Since the lawsuit, the Kindle Fire tablets now come with accessibility features such as a screen reader, Braille support, screen magnifier, contrast options, and closed captioning.

Apple devices are commonly recommended due to their built-in accessibility features such as VoiceOver, compatibility with Braille devices, app for Daisy books and talking touch screens. Despite the advancement of these devices, the issue remains whether all e-books or PDF's can be read by the software in these devices.