You are probably here because you are interested in purchasing or renewing a contract for an electronic information technology product (EIT) and you want to know what this Accessibility Review is all about. You have come to the right place. This page will give you all of the details, even the behind the scenes, of an Accessibility Review.
What is an Accessibility Review?
At the University of Cincinnati, when you purchase any product that is considered Electronic Information Technology (EIT), you are required to have the Accessibility Network review your product for conformance to federal accessibility laws.
An Accessibility Review is the process we follow to provide the purchasing department feedback on the accessibility of the product. The feedback can be used as a guide on whether to purchase the product, proactively communicate to the end-users and/or to build a roadmap for the vendor to address any accessibility barriers.
We understand this process can seem scary and unnerving for both the purchasing department and the vendor. Please be assured that we want to make this process as painless as possible for everyone involved, while still achieving our overall goal of making our campus accessible to all students.
Accessibility Review Process
As mentioned previously, the Accessibility Review is a process. Our process consists of four possible phases. The phases are each described below.
Phase I: Assessment
Once you submit your request to have your product reviewed, someone from our team will review the information and determine next steps. During the assessment we will assign a risk level based on the information you provide and the VPAT from the vendor.
The risk level will help to determine the next steps you will need to take in the process. These next steps are communicated to you during our feedback phase.
Phase II: Feedback
Once we finish the assessment, we will respond to your request with feedback. The feedback will provide you with:
- Summary of the VPAT review
- Next steps of the Accessibility Review
- List of accessibility barriers identified in the VPAT
Within the next steps section of the feedback we provide, you will see any neccessary actions required for you. Some possible next steps could be:
- Request more information from Vendor
- Proactively communicate to your audience
- Include accessibility language within your contract
- Accessibility Network complete a full accessibility test of the product
If you are not notified that your product needs a full accessibility test, this feedback phase will complete the accessibility review process for you.
Phase III: Accessibility Test
If we have assigned your product a high risk level, the Accessibility Network will do a full accessibility test. In this phase there are three steps, kick-off call, testing, review results, each described below.
If it is determined that your product needs to be tested for accessibility, you will be notified in the feedback communication. You will also receive a calendar invite for a kick-off call. During this kick-off call we will:
- Discuss what to expect during the testing
- Define scope and use cases
- Request access to the product
- Ask you to give us a live demo of the product if possible
- Discuss what happens after the testing is complete
A full accessibility test consists of two types of tests, automated and manual. Each test is critical to identify any accessibility barriers within the product.
Automated Accessibility Tests
We use Level Access, a third party tool, to run automated accessibility tests of our products. Level Access will "crawl" the tool to validate the website code for accessibility. This test can identify issues such as missing alternative text for images, errors with form labels, color contrast issues. This "crawl" is not invasive to the product and the vendor does not need to do anything on their end, other than provide us basic user access.
Automated testing is great to help with consistency, resources and time to test. However, automated testing cannot identify all accessibility issues. Many reports say an automated scan can only identify 15-25% of the errors. To identify the rest of the issues we perform manual tests as well.
Manual Accessibility Tests
Manual accessibility tests are performed by an employee on the Accessibility Network. Typically these tests include:
- Screen reader testing
- Keyboard only testing (without using a mouse)
- Reviewing automated test results to validate. Ex: Alternative text may be present and assessed as passing for an automated scan, but if the alternative text is not useful for an end-user it is still not accessible. Only a human can determine this.
Manual testing is critical for understanding a user experience and capturing any errors that cannot be tested using an automated product. However, because these tests are performed by individuals they can sometimes be less consistent than an automated scan and are considered more subjective.
Once our team finishes the accessibility tests, you will receive a meeting invite to review the results and to discuss next steps. We understand that accessibility can sometimes be similar to a foreign language. To help make the information digestible, we will show you how to review your reports, give you a high level summary of the issues found, explain next steps and answer any questions you may have.
If there are no issues found, this would complete the process for your accessibility review.
Phase IV: Access Plan
The Access Plan is a deliverable from the accessibility test. It is made up of three sections, accessibility summary, vendor roadmap and temporary accommodation plan. Each section is considered a living document, as we will work together to use this to document and update our accessibility remediation plan.
This section will provide a high-level overview of the accessibility test results. It will include information about the users that may be impacted. We will review this with the purchasing department and the vendor, if they want to be included. We will work with you to prioritize the issues that are most critical to be fixed during the review of this summary.
Based on the issues noted and prioritized in the accessibility summary, the vendor will create a roadmap of when they expect to be able to remediate the accessibility issues. This roadmap will be based on the vendors development cycle and will be used to track progress.
Temporary Accommodation Plan
If there are critical issues found, we will need to create an accommodation plan for students that may be impacted. This plan should be temporary and only used as a bridge until the vendor is able to remediate the issue. To create the accommodation plan, the purchasing department will work with their vendor, the Accessibility Resource office, and/or the Human Resources office.
- The vendor may be able to identify temporary work-arounds for the issues found.
- Accessibility Resource office can help identify accommodation solutions and/or processes that need to be established for students.
- Human Resources office provides accommodation solutions and/or processes that need to be established for staff and faculty.
The Access Plan is the final phase of the Accessibility Review process.