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Accessibility Resources for IT Purchases

It is important for the University community to consider accessibility when making IT purchases. While the Accessibility Risk Assessment Survey is a useful tool for assisting with evaluations prior to purchase, we have gathered additional resources to assist you in the process. This page includes templates, tutorials, best practices, and even a glossary to help you ensure the accessibility of IT systems, software, and services prior to purchase.

Documents and Templates

Defect Report

The Rutgers Office of IT Accessibility (OITA), as well as many independent testing agencies, commonly will document and compile all known accessibility defects into a single report. This defect report identifies in detail where issues can arise for users using assistive technology. The report also demonstrates how to replicate those issues and offers potential solutions.

A defect report will include the following criteria:

  1. Executive summary.
  2. Background about the evaluation.
  3. Scope of review, including URLs tested, URLs excluded, and dates when the review is conducted.
  4. Reviewers, including contact information for the reviewing organization.
  5. Review process, including which conformance level was tested, evaluation tools used, and a description of the manual review process.
  6. Results and recommended actions.

A template defect report is offered by OITA.

RFP

Sometimes it is required to use an request for proposal (RFP) to procure products or services. The vendors that are selected should provide ample support for accessibility. A template checklist of accessibility questions to ask each vendor during an RFP is provided by OITA.

Roadmap to Accessibility

Sometimes a company’s product may not be accessible, but they fully intend to improve its accessibility over time. Smaller start-ups, especially, may not be fully aware of accessibility issues present in their products, or they may be too small to have the expertise and resources available to conduct an accessibility evaluation of their own. Gathering this information is critical as it provides sufficient knowledge to plan for workarounds or accommodations that may be necessary until the vendor has resolved accessibility issues.

A roadmap to accessibility will include the following criteria:

  1. Descriptions of each major accessibility issue.
  2. Current status of each issue:
    1. Open (The issue has not yet been resolved.)
    2. Closed (The issue has already been resolved.)
    3. Under investigation
  3. Disposition of each issue:
    1. Planned (The issue will be resolved)
    2. Deferred (The issue will not be resolved)
    3. Under investigation
  4. Remediation timeline for each issue.
  5. Available workarounds.

A template roadmap is provided by OITA.

VPAT

A Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) is a document that describes how a product conforms to federal IT accessibility standards and guidelines set by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. The VPAT explains how a product meets or does not meet accessibility standards and criteria, including the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, Section 508 Refresh, and the European Union’s EN 301 549 (PDF) standards.

A VPAT is not a blanket statement regarding whether a product is accessible or not, as virtually no product will be 100% accessible. Rather, a VPAT is a claim about the accessibility of a product at the time of assessment. Though not a common practice, it may additionally include how the vendor plans to address any accessibility deficiencies.

During the procurement process, a VPAT should be requested by the buyer for preliminary evaluation of a product’s accessibility. However, as the name states, a VPAT is voluntary, so not all vendors will have a VPAT for their products. If a product has a VPAT, buyers should still do their due diligence in manually assessing and testing a potential product for accessibility concerns.

Vendors may create a VPAT themselves, which can impact the reliability of their claims. For example, if the vendor is a for-profit company, accessibility defects may be overlooked or minimized to secure a sale. VPATs produced by a third party, such as an organization specializing in accessibility or advocates on behalf of people with disabilities, will be more impartial and forthcoming than a vendor VPAT.

Contract Language

Sometimes certain contract language can be used by the University as leverage to ensure that, as a product undergoes regular updates and security maintenance, it remains accessible by users with disabilities. Sometimes a contract can be used to ensure that, if known accessibility issues exist, they will be solved in a timely manner. If not, then the University may become eligible to receive a predetermined recompense.

Template contract language can be provided by OITA upon request. Please email accessibility@rutgers.edu to make this request.

Glossary

Accessibility

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Education defines accessibility as meaning “when a person with a disability is afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as a person without a disability in an equally integrated and equally effective manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use.”

Accessibility Specialist

An accessibility specialist is someone whose job duties include quality control/quality assurance of a product’s usability by people with disabilities. The role of this specialist may be to advise the development team, or work within it as a developer. This specialist may act as a liaison with sales representatives to answer questions related to accessibility. Regardless of the particular role of accessibility specialist, it is this individual who serves as the subject matter expert (SME) for accessibility and how the product is used by people with disabilities.

Independent Evaluation

Sometimes it may be imperative to have a product assessed objectively and impartially by an unrelated third party.

Contact accessibility@rutgers.edu for a list of independent companies offering accessibility evaluations.

Legal Risk

In the context of accessible product procurement, we define legal risk as the risk of financial or reputational loss that can result from lack of awareness or misunderstanding the laws and regulations that apply to EIT acquisitions. These laws include Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Relevant policy at Rutgers also includes the Rutgers University Accessibility Policy.

Operational Scope

The risk assessment rubric asks some basic questions about the procurement’s intended users, intended use cases, and estimated number of users. This information is used to determine the extent to which EIT acquisitions will be used across the University.

Rutgers University Accessibility Policy

The Rutgers University Accessibility Policy defines the technical standards for accessibility to which all official web content must abide. The policy references the WCAG guidelines and conformance level AA, which is a very common standard used by government agencies and businesses.