Guide to Purchasing Accessible Software

INTRODUCTION

Software and technology that is intended to be used by more than one person should undergo an accessibility review to ensure all users are able to access and make the most use of these tools.

In accordance with the college policy on the Accessibility of Technology, the following purchasing policies and procedures provide guidance to requesting software and help ensure that appropriate measures are taken to buy accessible products whenever possible.  Please note that all software should be purchased through IT, regardless of funding source.

HOW DO YOU VERIFY ACCESSIBILITY

Most vendors have or are working to make their products accessible to all.  Many fill out a form called the VPAT (Voluntary Product Accessibility Template) to determine the level to which their product is accessible.  If a product or application is accessible, the vendor should supply you with a completed VPAT.  Some vendors might point you to their accessibility statement that states compliance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, as amended and/or is compliant with WCAG 2.0 for web content. Other times, you need to do a bit of investigation to determine the extent to which the software is accessible. The following should help guide you in that process.

ACCESSIBLE SOFTWARE PURCHASING PREPARATION

When requesting software, please consider the following:

  • Software and/or technology used by one person does not need to be reviewed for accessibility.
  • Plan for additional time from request to installation to allow sufficient time for the accessibility verification.  You may need to purchase separate or additional physical devices or test numerous pieces of software before finding the right application.
  • Most accessibility issues are not solved by simply buying accessible software.  Situations may arise where you will still have to provide additional support for a student, staff, or faculty.  However, software/hardware that meets industry standards should dramatically reduce the amount of work required.
  • If the software you select is not accessible, ask the vendor for their timeline to meet accessibility standards. That information can help you decide to look for an alternative application or help you know how long you may have to provide alternative support or access.
  • If you are unable to find accessible software or are required to use industry-standard software that is not accessible, submit a Software Accessibility Exception form.  If approved, you will be asked to work with the Academic Success Center to develop a plan on how to enable impacted students to use the software.

WORKING WITH A SALES REPRESENTATIVE

Working with a sales representative is often the easiest and quickest way to find software/hardware that meets your needs.  If you are working with a sales representative, ask them about the accessibility of their products.  IT suggests you use the following language:

St. Olaf College requires that all information and technology must be compliant with Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended, WCAG 2.0 Level AA for web-based content, and other related local, state, and federal laws, as well as other related college policies. Could you provide either a statement on the accessibility of [name of product or service], or a current Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) for the software?

Specific questions you can ask include:

  1. Can you provide us with a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) for your product? If the vendor is unfamiliar with a VPAT ask them to complete the CSU Guide to Completing the Voluntary Product Evaluation Template (VPAT).
  2. If your product is not fully accessible, do you have a roadmap to make your product fully compliant? If so, include your roadmap.
  3. Please describe, in detail, the extent to which your product is accessible to people with disabilities, including people who are blind or have low vision, are Deaf or hard of hearing, have mobility or dexterity limitations, and who have speech impairments.
  4. Where your product is not accessible, please describe options for improving the accessibility of your product through modifications, peripherals, or other add-ons as appropriate.
  5. What methods did you use to determine the accessibility of your product or service?
    1. Third-party user assessment
    2. In-house user assessment
    3. Automated assessment
    4. Assessment by users with disabilities
    5. Other (Please explain)
  6. Is the site WCAG 2.0 level AA compliant and can you provide accessibility testing results?
  7. If the site is not WCAG 2.o0 level AA compliant are you willing to add a clause to the contract that states you will do the remediation in a reasonable timeframe at no charge to the college?
  8. Can you provide documentation supporting your claims of accessibility?
  9. To what extent are you willing to work with St. Olaf College to improve your product’s accessibility?
  10. If you know of organizations using your product for whom accessibility was also a priority, can you please provide contact information?

From University of Minnesota’s Accessible U initiative.

 

WORKING WITHOUT A SALES REPRESENTATIVE

The following strategies can help determine accessibility if you do not have a sales representative to assist you:

  • Search for ‘508’ or ‘VPAT’ on the manufacturer’s website.
  • Use the contact information for the manufacturer and ask someone at the company for a VPAT or accessibility statement.
  • Use a search engine to look for a VPAT or a 508 compliance statement for the product you’re looking to purchase.

 

IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A VPAT OR STATEMENT OF ACCESSIBILITY

If you are unable to find any information on the accessibility of the product, then you should look for another product that is fully accessible that meets your business needs.  In the event that no product which meets your needs is fully accessible, or the product that does meet your business needs does not have a VPAT or a statement of accessibility, an Accessibility Exception Request form should be completed.

WHAT DO I DO IF THE PRODUCT IS NOT ACCESSIBLE

Products are not fully accessible if the VPAT has sections that are labeled as ‘Supports with Exceptions’ or ‘Not Supported.’ In the event that no product which meets your business needs is fully accessible, an Accessibility Exception Request form should be completed.

Once the form is received, it will be reviewed by the Accessible Technology Compliance Committee. You will be sent an email with the final decision.  Software will not be purchased without getting this approval.