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Accessible Technology

Procuring Accessible IT

The University of Washington strives to ensure that IT products developed at, purchased by, or used at the University are accessible to all faculty, students, and staff, including those with disabilities. To reach this goal, those responsible for making decisions about which products to procure must consider accessibility as one of the criteria for acquisition. This is especially critical for enterprise-level systems and other technologies that affect a large number of students, faculty, and/or staff.

The UW Procurement Services department has published Procedure 7.2.15 (Procuring Accessible IT, in PDF) which includes the following Policy:

The University of Washington Procurement Services (Procurement Services) department supports the procurement of accessible information technology under Washington State Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) Policy #188, University of Washington Administrative Policy Statement (APS) #2.3, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 along with its 2008 Amendments. Wherever practicable, Procurement Services shall procure information technology that meets accessibility requirements as specified in the University of Washington IT Accessibility Guidelines at https://uw.edu/accessibility/guidelines.

This policy applies to all solicitations, responses thereto, and contracts for websites, web applications, software systems, electronic documents, e-learning, multimedia and programmable user interfaces wherever practicable. It covers the technology’s user interface, access and content; but does not cover content that a user may encounter after leaving the covered technology (example: links to other web content).

In order to facilitate the procurement of accessible information technology, the following three steps should be implemented for all products and services that fall within the scope of the above policy. UW-IT Accessible Technology Services can assist with any of these steps. See Getting Help for additional information.

Step 1: Solicit accessibility information.

UW Procurement describes this step as follows:

In order to facilitate the procurement of accessible information technology, University of Washington bidders and vendors shall be required to demonstrate that information technology provided to the University of Washington conforms to or addresses each of the WCAG 2.0, Level AA success criteria wherever demonstrating such performance is practicable. Vendors may do so by providing any of the following:

  • an independent third party evaluation from an accessibility consultancy
  • a completed copy of the University of Washington IT Accessibility Checklist
  • a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT). If a VPAT is used, it must use the VPAT 2.0 template, which is based on WCAG 2.0 Level AA. The VPAT 2.0 template is available from the Information Technology Industry Council at itic.org/policy/accessibility.

Step 2: Validate accessibility information received.

Vendors should provide detailed information about the accessibility of their product or services using one or more of the three methods listed in the preceding section. The first of these sources is the most likely of the three to be credible, providing it was completed by a credible accessibility consultancy. The second and third sources of information can be informative, but they have limitations since they are self-reports completed by the vendors. Some vendors do not have adequate technical expertise to accurately assess their products’ accessibility. Others skillfully provide information that trivializes the significance of accessibility shortcomings. Therefore, vendors’ claims should be independently verified and not accepted at face value. The information they provide should provide a good starting point for a thorough discussion about accessibility of vendors’ products, particularly for those whose products are selected as finalists.

Few IT products are fully accessible. However, vendors should at a minimum be willing to make a commitment to address their accessibility problems. Without this commitment, using the product may place the University at risk for discriminating against some of its students and/or employees.

Step 3: Include accessibility assurances in contracts.

If ultimately the best product for meeting a particular need is one that fails to fully meet accessibility requirements, vendors should be asked to make a commitment to improving accessibility over a specified timeline, perhaps working with campus staff.

After a procurer discusses accessibility issues with a vendor, the procurement contract should include language that specifically documents the agreement between vendor and procurer as to how satisfactory progress on accessibility will be measured. For example, the vendor might provide a roadmap as an addendum to the contract with a prioritized list of accessibility issues and a timeline for addressing each issue. Then, contract extensions might be contingent upon satisfactory progress toward resolving the issues identified in the roadmap.

Even if the product is currently accessible, the contract should include language that assures continued accessibility as the product is updated. This is especially important for products that are developed on an ongoing rapid release cycle.

UW Procurement Services recommends the following contractual language to be inserted in contracts for the procurement of IT:

Accessibility.  Vendor represents that it is committed to promoting and improving accessibility of all its products as specified in the University of Washington IT Accessibility Guidelines (https://uw.edu/accessibility/guidelines), and will remain committed throughout the term of this Agreement.  If the Products and Services are not in conformance with all applicable federal and state disability laws, policies, and regulations as of the Effective Date, Vendor shall use reasonable efforts to update the Products and Services so as to be in conformance therewith.  In the event any issues arise regarding Vendor’s compliance with applicable federal or state disability laws, policies and regulations, Customer may send communications to Vendor as specified in the “Notices” provision of this contract and Vendor will assign a person with accessibility expertise to reply to Customer.