Considering accessibility during purchasing decisions makes it much easier to accommodate individuals with disabilities. When accessibility is only a secondary consideration, accommodations have to be provided on a case-by-case basis, which can often be costly in terms of resources and personnel.

Electronic and Information Technology (EIT) purchases include university systems required for use by students or employees such as registration, electronic textbooks, adaptive courseware, software or apps used in instruction or evaluation, databases, proctoring tools, clickers, etc.

Purchasing Steps

Requirements for CSU Purchasers
  • Accessibility should be an explicit criterion in all EIT RFPs.
  • When an RFP is not required, accessibility must also be considered before adopting technology tools which students or employees will be required to use, whether purchased or free.
  • If an inaccessible product is adopted, individuals with disabilities must be accommodated by offering an equitable alternative.
Requirements for Potential Vendors

Prospective vendors are required to demonstrate their knowledge of and commitment to accessibility during the purchasing process:

  • Vendors will submit a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) describing the accessibility of their products and services.
  • As an alternative to the VPAT, vendors may submit an independent third party accessibility evaluation from a certified accessibility consultant.
  • Vendors will disclose any existing accessibility issues that they are aware of in their product, and a roadmap or other such plan for addressing existing issues.
Requesting Information from Vendors

Ask the following questions to help determine a vendor’s level of understanding of and commitment to accessibility issues:

  1. Please provide a completed VPAT 2.0 form for your product. An evaluation by a third-party, certified accessibility consultant is an acceptable alternative to the VPAT.
  2. Please provide additional documentation for these questions, as applicable:
    • Is your product developed using accessibility standards? If so, which?
    • Which assistive technologies have been tested with your product?
    • Has your product been tested with assistive technologies beyond screen readers, such as keyboard, magnification, text-to-speech, voice recognition, etc.?
      • If not, do you have plans to include these in future testing?
    • Have you had users with disabilities do any testing for you?
    • What existing accessibility issues are you aware of in your product?
    • Do you have a roadmap for addressing existing issues?
    • Do you have a plan for resolving any accessibility issues that come up during the period of a contract?
    • Does your company have an accessibility policy?
    • Do you have anyone assigned to accessibility issues in your company?
Understanding the VPAT
  • A good VPAT should acknowledge specific areas of concern and detail plans for improvement. A flawless VPAT is not realistic, and raises questions about the vendor’s understanding of accessibility.
  • If a vendor does not have a VPAT readily available, it could be a sign that accessibility is not an active concern of theirs.
Understanding the Questions
  • For help understanding responses to these questions and the options available to you, contact the ATRC.
  • The preferred product should undergo in-house accessibility testing before a contract is offered or a product is adopted.
  • Alternatively, a third party independent accessibility evaluation by an accessibility consultant may be requested.

All University contracts for EIT should contain appropriate provisions concerning accessibility. Consult with the ATRC on contract language for these provisions. Vendors can demonstrate a commitment to making accessibility a priority by

  • Assigning a specific support contact to work on accessibility issues as they arise.
  • Offering workarounds for issues that currently exist.
  • Adopting WCAG 2.1 AA guidelines as a standard for development.
  • Adopting a development process that includes accessibility testing throughout, with a variety of assistive technologies (not just screen readers).
  • Developing a roadmap for accessibility improvements, including a timeline for development.

If the adoption of a product does not include a contract, the adopter should still advocate with the vendor or publisher for making accessibility a priority in their business.

Work with the ATRC throughout the purchasing and evaluation process. Accessibility should not be an afterthought, but should be considered up front.