What is Accessible Technology vs Assistive Technology?
Assistive technology is a technology that’s been specifically designed to help a person with a disability to perform a task. For example, a screen reader such as JAWS is assistive technology. Assistive technology alone will never guarantee access for people with disabilities because websites and software must be designed with accessibility in mind for people to be able to use them.
Accessible technology is a technology that’s been designed with the needs of many different users in mind. It often includes built-in customization features so that the user can individualize their experience to meet their needs.
When purchasing electronic devices and services such as new equipment and hardware, digital instructional material, including textbooks with a digital component (access code, online study site), or new software, including remote-access services such as library databases, we must take steps to ensure that what we purchase is usable by those with disabilities and compatible with assistive technology such as screen readers.
Criteria to consider when evaluating options include:
- Is there a study website or an online component? If so, is it fully accessible?
- Are videos captioned and audio described and are audio recordings transcribed?
- Can all interactive features (media players, quizzes, flashcards, etc.) be completed by keyboard alone (no mouse required)?
What Steps Should I Take?
- Before selecting a vendor/supplier/publisher, request an accessibility conformance document such as a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT). If they have no VPAT request an accessibility status or roadmap.
- Submit the VPAT or roadmap to the Accessible Technology Program Manager.
- Evaluation: The Accessible Technology Program Manager will review and work with you on the evaluation of the product. ITS may request trial products to do further testing on the product.
- Negotiation: During the negotiation phase of the process, we will require contract language specific to the product accessibility and if necessary, may request that the supplier commits to a roadmap with precise steps they are taking to make their product accessible and to keep the product accessible through future revisions.
- Accommodating: If the product is not fully accessible and no better option exists, you should create an equally effective alternative access plan (EEAAP) detailing how students with disabilities can access the information.
- Purchasing: Follow the purchasing process to purchase your product. When ITS signs off on the requisition in ctcLink, Purchasing will assume accessibility of the product has been verified. The bookstore also assumes accessibility has been vetted when they receive textbook requests from departments.
You can download these steps for you to keep at your desk.
Submit a VPAT
Please fill out the VPAT Submission Form to submit VPATs or other accessibility documents. If the VPAT is online please submit the link in the last question of the form. After submission, the Accessible Technology Program Manager and ITS will review to provide feedback.
What If What I Want Has Accessibility Issues?
If there are issues with accessibility for a product or resource, you should create an equally effective alternative access plan (EEAAP) detailing how students with disabilities can access the information.
We may still authorize the purchase with contractual language which ensures future upgrades or versions must be accessible. Our goal is to be a fully technologically accessible campus, so there will come a time when we will not purchase technology that doesn’t meet our accessibility standards. Start talking to vendors and publishers now.