ICT Accessibility and Publisher Content

Federal law requires that higher education institutions that receive federal funding (financial aid and grants) make all instructional materials accessible to all students. Additionally, 4-16 University policy regarding electronic and information technology accessibility requires that staff and faculty create and procure accessible digital content from third-party vendors (including publishers).

Unfortunately, publishers and third-party creators are not governed by these same laws or policies. So, digital content or tools on a publisher's homework website (that comes bundled with the textbook for example), could present accessibility problems and potentially expose an institution to significant legal risk. Additionally, the use of inaccessible instructional materials could negatively impact a student's academic career.

Therefore, when considering digital materials from third-party for use in online and face-to-face courses, it's important to ask the right questions. This page provides information and questions staff and faculty can use when discussing ICT accessibility with publishers and other third party digital content providers.

Accessibility of digital content

QUESTION - Are videos captioned and audio recordings transcribed?
Why this is important - There should be transcripts for audio recordings and captions or subtitles for video. If there are not, ask the publishing representative if they would provide a captioned version in a timely manner if a student who needed them registered for your class.

QUESTION - Can all of the text displayed on the screen be read aloud by text-to-speech software, and are the images and videos described for the visually impaired?
Why this is important - Screen readers (assistive technology used by people who are blind) read real text. They cannot read images of text or text embedded in Flash animations/movies/simulations. Screen reading software can read digital text aloud, but it cannot interpret images or text presented in videos. Content presented as images or video requires suitable alternate text descriptions in order for the screen reader user to have access to the information.

QUESTION - Can all interactive exercises (media players, quizzes, flashcards, etc.) be completed by keyboard alone (no mouse required)?
Why this is important - People who are blind or people who have upper mobility disabilities cannot use a mouse. They use the keyboard to navigate and interact with the Web. It is required that any interactive elements on the publisher's website (or on a DVD included with the book) be operable by a keyboard alone if they are used in your course. For example: An interactive exercise that requires dragging and dropping is not keyboard accessible, so unless there is a keyboard option to dragging and dropping, that sort of exercise should not be used in your course.

QUESTION - Is there any documentation available (e.g., VPATĀ® or online accessibility road maps) that detail accessibility testing results and general product accessibility?
Why this is important - A VPATĀ® is a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template. Many companies use these to report the accessibility of their products. Do not rely solely on verbal claims of accessibility. If the publisher cannot produce a VPAT or any test results confirming the accessibility of its online and/or software products, then it is possible the publisher is not considering accessibility in the design of its products. Thus, the products may be inaccessible to individuals with disabilities. NOTE - if the accessibility of a publisher's e-Text, online, or software product is unknown or is known to be inaccessible, you should carefully plan how to provide equally effective accessible alternatives before relying on potentially inaccessible products as an essential part of a course. Accommodations and alternate versions can take considerable time to prepare. Contact the EIT Manager to discuss finding accessible course materials.

Accessibility of multimedia content

QUESTION - Is your multimedia (Adobe) Flash or (Oracle) Java-based? (Another way to put this, is "Can your materials be watched on an iPad?")
Why this is important - Content created in Flash and or Java can be inaccessible and may not run on mobile devices and tablets, which are becoming more prevalent.

QUESTION - Does any software need to be installed on student computers?
Why this is important - What are the computer requirements for using their materials? Will the materials work on mobile devices?