Purchasing Accessible Technology
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 things like websites or software, they really must be designed with accessibility in mind for people to actually be able to use them.
Accessible technology is a technology that’s been designed with the needs of a lot of different users in mind. Its technology with built-in customization features so that the user can really individualize their experience to meet their needs.
When purchasing electronic devices and services including:
- Any new equipment and hardware
- Digital Instructional Material – including textbooks with a digital component (access code, online study site) that is required for a course
- New software including 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.
Other criteria 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 a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT). If they have no VPAT request an accessibility status or roadmap.
- Submit VPAT or roadmap to the Accessible Technology Committee (ATC)
- Evaluate – the ATC will review and work with you on the evaluation of the product. ITS may request trial products to do further testing on the product.
- Negotiate – during the negotiation phase of the process, we will require contract language specific to the product accessibility, and request that the supplier commits to a roadmap with precise steps they are taking to make their product accessible if it is not already and to keep the product accessible.
- Purchase – follow the procurement process to purchase your product. When ITS signs off on the Materials & Service Request (MSR) form, Procurement 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 committee and ITS will review to provide feedback.
What if what I want isn’t Accessible?
First, we may still purchase with contractual language which ensures future upgrades or versions must be accessible. Second, create an accommodation plan. Our goal is by 2022 to be a fully accessible technological campus. So there will come a time we will not purchase technology that doesn’t meet our accessibility standards. Start talking to vendors and publishers now.