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Summary: Technology vendors often will claim that their products are accessible, but you'll need to dig deeper to understand to what extent they're accessible and how they've arrived at that claim.
Accessibility in RFPs and contracts matters
The University of Minnesota is committed to providing equitable access to electronic information, information technology, technology services and the environments in which information technology is used.
The University of Minnesota Accessibility of Information Technology policy exists to promote equal access to university electronic information resources, technologies and services for students, employees, guests and visitors, including those who have disabilities. The policy encompasses:
- Web-based information and services, including those associated with courses of instruction, departmental programs, University-sponsored activities, employment, administration and university services
- Hardware and software to be developed, purchased or acquired by the U of M
- Environments specific to information technology, including classroom and general-use computer facilities, online and distance learning, places of employment, libraries and resource centers.
A person with a disability must be afforded the opportunity to:
- acquire the same information,
- engage in the same interactions,
- enjoy the same services,
- with substantially equivalent ease of use
as a person without a disability. Accessibility ensures equal opportunity to the educational benefits and opportunities afforded by the technology and equal treatment in the use of such technology.
Questions to ask
Manufacturers, vendors, and service providers often make inaccurate or incomplete claims about the accessibility of their products or services. Due diligence will help you avoid implementing an inaccessible product, which could lead to usage delays, unmet expectations and possible legal issues, while also promoting accessibility for individuals with disabilities and usability for all.
Whether you're developing a RFP or making a smaller purchase, you should ask these six accessibility related questions:
Specifically describe 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.
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.
What methods did you use to determine the accessibility of your product or service?
Third-party user assessment
In-house user assessment
Assessment by users with disabilities
Other (Please explain)
Provide documentation supporting your claims of accessibility.
To what extent are you willing to work with the University to improve your product’s accessibility?
If you know of organizations using your product for whom accessibility was also a priority, please provide contact information.
All U of M contracts and grants should contain a provision requiring the contractor or grantee to comply with our Accessibility of Information Technology policy.
To ensure that the requirements are satisfied, consider including this provision--or substantially similar language--in all digital products and services contracts you sign:
"Vendor hereby warrants that the products or services to be provided under this agreement comply with the University of Minnesota accessibility requirements.
"Vendor agrees to promptly respond to and resolve any complaint regarding accessibility of its products or services which is brought to its attention.
"Vendor further agrees to indemnify and hold harmless the University of Minnesota or any university entity using the vendor's products or services from any claim arising out of its failure to comply with the aforesaid requirements.
"Failure to comply with these requirements shall constitute a breach and be grounds for termination of this agreement."