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Summary: As a representative of the U of M, you have the power and agency to work with vendors to move toward accessibility, which can increase awareness and improve access for all.
When exploring whether to adopt a new technology, you should consider: To what extent is the product accessible to people with various disabilities, including those who are blind or have low vision, are Deaf or hard of hearing, have mobility or dexterity limitations, and have speech impairments.
Accessibility exists on a spectrum
Is it or isn’t it accessible? Gotcha! It’s not an either-or. The better question is:
To what extent is your product accessible?
Accessibility exists on a spectrum, and there will almost always be some bad along with the good. Most companies are aware of the need for accessibility in their products, while few of them actually are doing the work to make them truly accessible (even if they say they are).
Explore the technology with this reality in mind: The product is not likely to be 100% accessible, even if the vendor says it is.
Many vendors will say their product is accessible because they tested it and “say so.” But you should understand how they determined accessibility, and ask them to prove it. Request documentation and demonstrations from the vendor that support their accessibility claims.
The extent to which a vendor is willing to work with the University to improve accessibility is a big deal. Ask for references from other organizations using the product for whom accessibility was also a priority.
These concepts, which also are part of the U of M’s RFP process, can help you discern not only the status of the product’s accessibility but also the company’s commitment to it or willingness to work toward it.
Develop a Plan B
Regardless of where your new technology falls on the accessibility continuum, consider a Plan B for those times when it creates a barrier for someone to use. Consider:
- How will your Plan B create an equivalent experience for all users?
- Is Plan B inclusive, or might it (further) marginalize another group of users?
Incorporating principles of universal design in the development, acquisition and implementation of information technology and related resources can also help ensure access to the widest possible audience.
Experts in the Computer Accommodation Program are available to help you as you explore and adopt new technologies.