Purchasing & Accessibility

Your department may be considering making a purchase of a type of platform or software for students to use whether on campus or online. Before making the purchase, the software or platform must be assessed for accessibility. The following requirements apply to free products that departments consider using as well.

TWU cannot require students to use a software or platform that is inaccessible.

This guide will review the following:

  • The Law and WCAG 2.0
  • VPATs
  • Questions for Vendors
  • Inaccessible Platforms

The Law & WCAG 2.0

Section 508 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (pdf) states that all content on any digital platform that is available to any TWU student or to the public must be accessible as well as any hardware technology must be made accessible to all. Section 508 Refresh expands the law in reference to accessibility standards issues by Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, which means that all digital content and technology at TWU must be perceivable, opearable and understandable by users per WCAG 2.0 standards.

Texas Government Code 2054.451Texas Administrative Code 206 and Texas Administrative Code 213 address accessibility mandates for institutions of higher education in Texas, specifically that they must comply with Section 508.

Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT)

A simple way to assess for product accessibility is by asking the vendor for their Voluntary Product Accessibility Template or VPAT. The VPAT will break down how their product meets Section 508 and WCAG 2.0 accessibility standards for technology. Be sure to get the VPAT 2.0 (or higher) that matches the current product version as the VPAT 2.0 is the updated version per Section 508 Refresh in 2017. VPATs developed before 2017 may be out of date if the product has been updated since then.

Vendors are encouraged to create VPATs but they are not required to have a VPAT. Vendors may also want to minimize any deficiencies with the product or platform to avoid losing a sale. The purchaser or purchasing department does not have to be a software developer to assess the VPAT for accessibility. If the VPAT has sections that are labeled as “Supports with Exceptions,” “Not Supported,” or “Partially Supported” then the product is not fully accessible. Consider investigating other products which are fully accessible to meet your needs. Consider asking the vendor if and when they are addressing the features that are inaccessible before making any purchases or agreement to purchase.

TWU cannot require students to use a software or platform that is inaccessible.

Questions for Vendors

Along with asking for the VPAT, it is recommended that you ask the following four simple questions to determine accessibility:

  • Can your software be used without a mouse?
  • Is all text within the product readable with assistive technology?
  • Are all interactive fields understandable?
    • This means if there are any fields on the stimulation/software/platform, will a screen reader be able to identify them and tell the user what the field asks for, i.e. a name field or a drop down menu.
  • Are videos captioned?

If any of the above questions are answered with "no" or "that will come out in our next update," that means the product is inaccessible as is. Consider investigating other products which are fully accessible to meet the needs of the program or event. Consider asking the vendor if and when they are addressing the features that are inaccessible before making any purchases or agreement to purchase.

We bought an inaccessible platform. Now what?

Disability Services staff would be very happy to meet with you and review the purchased platform. We can make recommendations of accommodations for students using the platform for your departmental staff to implement.

Consider talking with the product vendor about the identified accessibility issues. They may be willing to make updates or create alternative solutions for access.

Consider looking for alternative platforms or products that are accessible for future purchases. If a product is inaccessible, it cannot be required for students to use to access the event or any service that your department offers.

Page last updated 5:19 PM, June 29, 2020