When buying hardware or software for university use, it is good practice to ask vendors specific questions regarding accessibility and to utilize the University of Minnesota sample vendor contract language when appropriate.
As the article Access Denied illuminates, accessibility leaders point to key elements that allow institutions to take a more proactive approach to Information Technology (IT) accessibility on campus. The first key element is: "Building accessibility considerations into the IT procurement process".
Ask Vendors Questions
When buying Information Technology products ask vendors specific questions regarding accessibility. Some samples:
- Do you have a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT)? A VPAT is a starting point that may help determine what kind of accessibility problems can be expected.
- Can you demonstrate how to operate your product effectively without a mouse?
- Does the product prompt authors to include accessibility, and provide relevant help?
- Are third party plug-ins accessible?
- Example: "The Drupal Accessibility Pledge"
- What sort of testing have you done with users with disabilities? (Probe for details and fact check their answers with other users.)
If a product is not accessible don't buy it. If no comparable product is accessible, buy it only with the written agreement that the vendor must address its accessibility shortcomings.
Sample Contract Language
The University of Minnesota provides sample vendor contract language to hold vendors accountable for the accessibility of products:
To ensure that the requirements are satisfied, it is recommended that each contract signed with a software vendor contain the provision set forth below or substantially similar language:
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.
In addition consider adding language regarding upgrades to address the scenario for if/when a product "upgrade" actually makes a product inaccessible. If a new version of a product is inaccessible then the vendor breaks the contract.