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Interacting with Vendors

In addition to federal civil rights laws, some states have passed laws specific to information and communication technology (ICT) accessibility requiring conformance with the US Section 508 Standards or the WCAG 2.0, Level AA criteria. This can lead to confusion on the part of vendors as to which accessibility standards are relevant and those purchasing ICT products at the college as to what constitutes an accessible product. Engaging and communicating with vendors can provide both parties with a better understanding as to which accessibility requirements apply and the extent to which access is supported in the product or service.

Obtain Documentation

Accessibility documentation from a vendor for a product or service may take the from of a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT), a summary of accessibility features and functionality. A concern with documentation supplied by a vendor is that it may not provide sufficient details as to the level of accessibility present or pending. Additionally, a VPAT focuses only on the 2001 version of the US Section 508 Standards, not the "refreshed" 508 Standards that reference WCAG 2.0. A more effective measure is to request documentation as to how the product conforms to the WCAG 2.0, Level AA standard.


Perform Basic Testing

Basic testing is intended to provide a simple evaluation of a product's accessibility and to highlight if there are any immediate user interface barriers. Obtaining more complete information from a vendor or third-party accessibility evaluation service is recommended to obtain a complete assessment identifying all accessibility barriers.

  1. Can you use the tab-key to navigate to and from all interactive elements, including hyperlinks, form fields, and buttons?
  2. Can you activate hyperlinks with the Enter/Return key?
  3. Can you activate buttons with the Spacebar or Enter/Return key?
  4. If you click on a form field's text label, does the cursor move into that form field?
  5. Do videos have controls to pause or stop the playback?
  6. Do videos have captions?
  7. For any blinking, scrolling, or moving content, are there controls to pause, stop, or hide that content?
  8. Does any content flash more than three times in a one second period?


Ask Questions

Before purchasing a product or service, inquire about the vendor's ability to develop and implement accessible solutions. Conformance with accessibility standards is one aspect, yet does not provide sufficient information as to how accessibility may be viewed by a vendor. Possible questions to ask include:

  1. What standards do you use when evaluating your product's accessibility support?
  2. What internal processes do you use to evaluate and remediate accessibility issues? Do you use any assistive technology applications?
  3. Do you develop solutions that conform to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and/or the WCAG 2.0, Level AA specifications?
  4. What types of documentation can you provide about the product's accessibility conformance?
  5. How is accessibility supported during product development and quality assurance testing so as to ensure the equivalent ease of use for individuals with disabilities?
  6. Is there a designated accessibility representative at your company to address issues or questions about accessibility issues?
  7. What training and experience do the technical teams have in creating accessible products and/or services? Is accessibility training or support updated on a regular basis for internal teams?
  8. What types of automated and manual accessibility testing procedures do you perform?
  9. How do you ensure keyboard and/or touch support for any interactive elements?

Generally speaking, there are no perfect answers as vendors may have different approaches to addressing accessibility within their products or services. What you are attempting to discern is familiarity with a concept versus an understanding and capability to implement accessible solutions.

For example, a vendor responding that they are fully compliant with all the accessibility requirements of Section 508 of the ADA indicates they are not informed regarding these statutes (i.e., there is no Section 508 of the ADA). Such a response should raise questions regarding the extent to which the vendor understands accessibility standards and criteria. Similarly, a vendor who describes their accessibility testing process as "rigorous" but is unable to identify any automated or manual accessibility testing procedures may not have quite as rigorous a process as claimed.

Request Demonstrations

While following technical accessibility standards and criteria is a start, how the product and/or service functions with assistive technology applications provides a more realistic assessment as to how usable the interface may be to individuals. Inform the vendor that you would prefer a demonstration of the product or service in question with specific assistive technology applications (e.g., using AT applications common for your institution). Such demonstrations can provide another perspective as to how functional a user interface may be when used in conjunction with assistive technology solutions.

Additional Resources