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IT Accessibility Policy and Process

About the Policy 

Ohio University created this policy to align the institution with the non-discrimination provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as amended, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act as well as OHIO's commitment to inclusivity in August of 2017. 

Policy 04.001 IT Accessibility requires all purchased and created digital products and services to adhere to OHIO's digital accessibility guidelines. OHIO's guidelines are based on the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 level AA

As of August 17th, 2017 all new IT purchases and new webpages must adhere to these new guidelines. While OIT does have a digital accessibility team to build toward this goal, the IT Accessibility policy requires all members of the Ohio University community to take ownership and responsibility for making our digital products and services useful for everyone on our campuses both physically and online. To assist with this, OIT has launched the Digital Accessibility Network for learning opportunities and to advance digital accessibility goals. 

Some of our business processes and the way we work will need to change - and that's not always an easy thing to do. As an added benefit, the WCAG 2.0 guidelines incorporate principles of usability that will benefit people regardless of their disability status. 

Accessibility and the Buying Process

Please visit the OHIO Technology Review page for complete requirements for purchasing IT services or products. Accessibility is part of the full review process and there are a few things you can do and that OIT can help you with when considering a product or service:

  • Solicit accessibility information. Ohio University bidders and vendors shall be required to demonstrate that information technology provided to Ohio University conforms to or addresses each of the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA success criteria whenever this is possible. Vendors may do so by providing any of the following:  
  • Validate accessibility information received. Wherever practicable, OIT's digital accessibility staff, or other qualified staff with expertise in digital accessibility, will attempt to validate the information provided by bidders and vendors, by  
    • obtaining additional information from the bidder or vendor to develop a complete and thorough understanding of the accessibility of the product or service; 
    • consulting with independent third parties who have evaluated the product or service for accessibility; or 
    • conducting an internal evaluation of the accessibility of the product or service  
  • Include accessibility assurances in contracts. The following contractual language should be inserted in contracts for the procurement of websites, web applications, software systems, electronic documents, e-learning, multimedia and programmable user interfaces wherever practicable:  
    • Contractor acknowledges and understands that its software is being licensed by Customer to be provided to its students.  Contractor acknowledges and understands that as a public institution of higher education that receives federal funding, Customer is required to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq. and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act 29 USC 701 et. Seq.  Contractor agrees that its software will comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq. and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 USC 701 et seq. as those laws apply to Customer, will be accessible to individuals with disabilities, and will meet current Ohio University Digital Content Accessibility Guidelines.  Contractor agrees that failure to provide an accessible product is a breach of Agreement. Contractor acknowledges that certain services will not be ADA accessible until [DATE] and that Service Provider has committed to accessibility in their [DATE] version. Service Provider agrees that failure to provide an accessible product is a breach of this agreement beginning [DATE]. 
What is the Review Process?

The accessibility review process for information and communications technology (ICT) purchases and websites or web apps built by OIT begins with an OIT Technical Review Request form submitted by the OHIO employee making the purchase. Visit the OIT software purchase page for more details.

This form will help the accessibility and security teams determine the risk level and business use for the product. If further review is needed, OIT will send a more detailed form to the vendor to begin the review process.

Those products that do not pass accessibility review at any level can request an exception from the IT Accessibility policy. For full documentation of this process, please visit the Ohio University Accessibility website.

What is an Automatic Exception?

Under certain circumstances, an automatic exception to Ohio University policy 04.001 IT Accessibility may be granted based on the cost of the information and communication technology (ICT) and the number of students using it. 

However, no automatic exceptions to the review process will be granted to any ICT regardless of cost or number of students, if that ICT is required for a student to complete their academic requirements or if the ICT is used for critical/important transactions. Examples include:

  • Learning Management Systems and integrations
  • Standalone instructional support *
  • ICTs Used for critical or important transactions like 
    • Campus housing
    • Dining
    • Registering for classes
    • Paying bills
    • Obtaining transcripts
    • or to complete required training like AlcoholEDU.

* "Instructional support application" means a software application, whether used 

  • in a single course 
  • by a department 
  • by a college or by a school 
  • or University wide 

which OHIO makes available to students, and which is designed and dedicated to the purpose of collecting or delivering course content or assignments, or assessing student performance.

An instructional support application is peripheral to a learning management system and is not necessarily used alongside a learning management system.  

Instructional support applications are either "non-standalone," because they contain supplementary digital content provided (either directly or through third parties) by the publishers of texts and book-length course materials, or "standalone," because they do not contain such content.  Non-standalone content is not subject to accessibility review at this time

Examples of standalone instructional support applications include:

  • Turnitin
  • LearnSmart
  • Vista Higher Learning
  • Pearson MyLab Mastering
  • WebAssign
How can I speed up the process?

Make Accessibility a Business Requirement

When you are considering purchasing or renewing software or a web application, you should add "accessibility" to your list of requirements that must be fulfilled before a purchase is made. By doing so, you can require that vendors demonstrate the accessibility of their product before you consider becoming a customer. This way, you can help make sure the product will work for the broadest audience possible. Since OHIO requires adherence to WCAG 2.0 guidelines, that also means that the software tools tend to focus more on overall usability.

Be Proactive

  • Start early!
    • If a product is coming up for renewal, put in a request early for an accessibility review.
    • The Digital Accessibility office usually has a large backlog of vendors reviews, it can take 2-4 weeks to review your vendor.
  • Look for accessibility statements and VPATs on vendor websites - if you don't see this, keep looking for another solution.
  • Ask sales people for a demonstration of how the solutions works with assistive technology.
  • Ask if the vendor has developers experienced in web accessibility.
  • For large purchases, request support from OIT's business office to find the best accessible solutions for your needs.