Campus Requester Information

Make accessibility a criteria when choosing electronic and information technology (EIT). Keep in mind that NIU must comply with state and federal accessibility laws and may be audited to ensure compliance. This applies to day to day purchases as well as to the formal bidding process.

Is this product an exception to accessibility requirements? 

Quick Accessibility Checks You Can Do Yourself

Here are some easy ways to check accessibility (this is not a complete accessibility check). If the answer is no to any of the following questions, there is an accessibility issue.

  • Using just the tab key can you get to all the links, form fields, and buttons?
  • Can you open links using the Enter key?
  • Can you click buttons using the spacebar or Enter key?
  • Are videos captioned?
  • Are there controls that let you pause or stop videos?
  • If you click on a form field's label, does the cursor move into that form field?
  • Nothing flashes more than three times per second?
  • Color is not used as the sole method for conveying information?

Getting a VPAT®

Standard Dell and Apple desktop and laptop purchases do not need a VPAT because they have accessibility built in.

If the technology is considered an exception to accessibility requirements, the purchase does not need a VPAT.

Many vendors have VPAT®s for their products on their websites. If the VPAT® for a product you're considering isn't online, request it from the vendor.

If the VPAT® is older than version 2.2 or it is more than one year old, request a more current one. The tables for Conformance Levels A and AA should be filled out completely and show support for each criteria. If there are accessibility issues, ask the vendor if there is a timeline to compliance.

Here is typical language to use in a VPAT® request:

Northern Illinois University is purchasing [product name] [vendor's invoice number if available].

As a public university in Illinois, we must comply with

regarding technology accessibility.

We need a VPAT® 2.2 for our records. In addition to the VPAT, we also invite you to share information about planned accessibility improvements for your product (third party certification, usability test results, etc.).

Thank you,
[your name, position, etc.]

If a vendor responds negatively, point out that

  • All public universities are required to have accessible EIT according to Rehabilitation Act - Section 508 Refresh.
  • A product is more convenient to purchase if there is a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT®) readily available showing it is accessible.
  • Accessible EIT has a larger potential market.

Reading a VPAT®

Having a VPAT® does not guarantee that a product is accessible. If any criteria is labeled "Supports with Exceptions" or "Not Supported," then the product is not fully accessible.

The report has three columns:

  • each criteria
  • if the product supports the criteria
  • remarks and explanations, such as what specifically is an issue, a workaround or a timeline to compliance.

Since NIU is required to meet Level AA criteria, which includes Level A, review the tables for both levels.

You can get an idea of a product's accessibility by checking the following criteria:

  • Keyboard (2.1.1): Can someone navigate to every part of the application and participate in every interaction using only a keyboard (not a mouse)?
  • Link Purpose (2.4.4): Every link name indicates where it will go (no links with names like  "click here," "this" or "more").
  • Focus Visible (2.4.7): Is the cursor location visibly located by an outline or underline (as you navigate using Tab, look for cursor indication)?