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Digital accessibility gains visibility in technology review process

Published: November 4, 2021 Author: Staff reports

The Office of Information Technology (OIT) is pleased to announce that digital accessibility is now a consistent feature in the technology review process, thanks to improvements made by the Higher Education Information Security Council, a coalition of more than 100 higher education institutions including Ohio University. 

This is a significant stride in OHIO’s commitment to diversity and inclusion because digital accessibility is now incorporated into a tool that many universities, including Ohio University, use to assess risk.

When departments purchase technology tools or solutions, the vendor must complete an official technology review. OHIO’s technology review process currently uses the Higher Education Community Vendor Assessment Tool, or HECVAT, an assessment vendors complete once per year to ensure they meet information security standards. Now accessibility information will be included in that assessment, so that potential customers can determine if the vendor meets accessibility standards prior to starting the purchasing process instead of at the end.

Jill Bateman, OHIO’s digital accessibility coordinator, participated in the committee that represented 15 universities across the US to integrate accessibility into the HECVAT.

“I was excited to volunteer for this project,” Bateman said. “Not all digital accessibility offices are combined with security offices as we are in OIT, but combining forces in this way gets everyone together and helps us speed up a complicated evaluation process.” 

The new addition should help reduce frustration for both OHIO customers and vendors. Accessibility information will be available prior to making a purchase decision, so customers can know quickly if a vendor is ready to meet OHIO’s requirements. Vendors can also complete the standardized form just once instead of submitting multiple forms to each institution.

“Vendors often have never considered whether their product poses a security risk for sensitive data or creates barriers for people with disabilities,” Alicia Porter, Information Security and Accessibility manager, said. “The HECVAT gives vendors a chance to tell us how they excel in these areas or shows them (and us) where they need to improve.”

The change will further OHIO’s goal to ensure a vendor’s products do not create barriers for people with disabilities or anyone else connected with the University.

“One of the reasons I love working in digital accessibility compliance is that when technology passes standards for digital accessibility, many more people are able to benefit from that tool, and it generally works better and is easier to use for everyone else as well,” Bateman said.

To learn more, visit the OIT Technology Review page or read the Educause article “Asking the right questions for procuring inclusive, accessible technology.”