Purchasing Accessible Technology

Accessibility in the Procurement Process

Procure to Purchase Order (P2PO)

The accessibility check is required for purchases of electronic and information technology (EIT) in the P2PO system. EIT purchase requests are routed to the Information Technology Accessibility Officer (ITAO) for approval:

  1. Determine if the use case for the product qualifies as an exception as defined by Section 508 Refresh of the Rehabilitation Act.
  2. If the product is not an exception, get a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) from the vendor. The VPAT is the legal way to report a product’s accessibility. The Information Technology Industry Council hosts the official versions of the VPAT.

Reading a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT)

NIU asks vendors for VPAT Section 508 version 2.x (docx). Some vendors have their VPATs on their websites. If not, a request usually gets a prompt response.

NIU is required by state and federal law to comply with Level AA, which includes Level A. Every cell in the Success Criteria tables for Levels A and AA should be completed.

The first column lists each criteria of Section 508. 

If the second column, Level of Support or Conformance Level, indicates "Supports with Exceptions" or "Not Supported," there is an accessibility issue. If you do not use that particular feature or part of the product, it will not be an issue for your use case. 

The Remarks and Explanations column should be filled out regardless of the level of support. This column can be used to note how the product meets the criteria, where product does not meet the criteria, a workaround and a timeline to compliance. 

A quick check of two criteria can be a good indicator of accessibility.

What this means: Someone who can't use a mouse can access all the content and accomplish all the interactions using a keyboard. 

What this means: As you use the Tab key to move through a web page, you can tell where the focus is (to see visible focus, go to www.niu.edu and use Tab to move through the page). 

Achieving Compliance

As campus requesters make accessibility a factor when choosing EIT, NIU's technology will become more accessible. Vendors will make their products accessible because the higher education market demands it.

Phase 1

While campus requesters and vendors learn about NIU's requirements for accessible EIT, purchase requisitions for EIT will go to the ITAO.

  1. The ITAO will request a completed VPAT2.x from the vendor and copy the requester.
  2. If the product is inaccessible, the ITAO will notify the vendor and requester and may request

Phase 2

An accessibility check is added to the beginning of the procurement process.

  1. The requester requests a completed VPAT2.x from the vendor and attaches it to the purchase requisition.
  2. If the product is inaccessible, the ITAO will notify the vendor and requester and  may request

Phase 3

The long view:

  • Campus requesters keep accessibility in mind when choosing what to buy.
  • Vendors make accessible products and services because customers insist on it.
  • NIU's EIT becomes more accessible over time.