Accessibility of Computer Applications
Accessibility of Computer Applications
By Eric Dibner, State of Maine ADA Accessibility Coordinator
How can I be sure my software applications are usable by people with disabilities? There are a number of steps that State agencies are required to take, including proper contracting for services and following State policies and accessibility standards, and it is prudent and cost-effective to test the product prior to acceptance. Ultimately, the agency is responsible for the accessibility of its services and programs.
The BP54-EO-IT document should be used for all Information Technology contracts of any dollar amount. The purpose is to ensure that State of Maine employees and customers who have disabilities are able to use the IT products and services of the State. IT products and services include data, voice, and video technologies. The required contract language is in Rider B-IT, which is on the Division of Purchases website at www.maine.gov/purchases/forms/BP54%20EO-IT.doc. Related to accessibility, it says:
38. Accessibility - All IT products must be accessible to persons with disabilities, and must comply with the State Accessibility Policy and the Americans with Disabilities Act. All IT applications must comply with the Computer Application Program Accessibility Standard (www.Maine.gov/oit/accessiblesoftware). All IT applications and contents delivered through web browsers must comply with the Website Standards (www.Maine.Gov/oit/webstandard) and the Website Accessibility Policy (www.Maine.Gov/oit/accessibleweb).
By signing an agreement that asserts the product will be accessible according to the foregoing paragraph, the vendor promises to deliver the product in compliance with State accessibility standards. All the good intentions, however, might not bring initial results that are satisfactorily accessible. The Department must hold the vendor to that promise.
So, upfront discussions with the vendor should describe a shakedown period and/or a specific testing regimen to ensure the product fits the bill, prior to acceptance and sign-off. If the product fails to meet our standards, the Department should not compensate the vendor until the problem is resolved and the product is accessible.
Validation of Product Accessibility
Testing of the accessibility of deliverables is not required, but it is in everybody’s interest to validate that the provider has delivered what has been promised. It is not unheard of for a vendor to promise something they will not or cannot deliver. This is particularly true for accessibility attributes. If you are familiar with the required State standards, it should be obvious when a product has major problems. But your agency needs the assurance of a detailed expert evaluation.
As part of validation, generate clear documentation of the testing and the results. It is good governance and serves as an excellent demonstration of the Department’s intent, should there be any complaint later on.
There are a number of automated generic programs for checking webpage accessibility. These may not be applicable for your project, may not tell everything you need to know, but they might give you an initial screen. These include:
The vendor should employ a user-testing procedure that puts the product through a screen of people who use assistive technology and who have disabilities, before the product is accepted. The best user testing would involve people who are blind and use screen-reading technology, people with motor control impairments, and people who are Deaf.
There are technology consultants nationally and locally who can do accessibility reviews. When selecting a testing process, check individually to determine whether the consultant is suitable for your application. For guidance about accessible technology see http://www.accessibletech.org/accesstech.html
and about selecting a consultant see
For further information:
Eric Dibner, ADA Accessibility Coordinator
(207) 623-7950 voice
(888) 577-6690 TTY