Materials that are designed with universal access have an advantage of being usable for a wide range of student needs and learning styles. When materials are accessible for students with disabilities, the materials will benefit a much wider range of students, including English language learners, students who are struggling, and students who are excelling. In other words, fully accessible materials are materials that are useable by all students.
This guidance document will help districts in factoring accessibility into making curricular decisions. Generally, materials are considered accessible if they give students with disabilities the opportunity to learn the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as students without disabilities.
Below are three steps you can take to help ensure you are purchasing accessible learning materials from the start.
1. When purchasing instructional materials from publishers/developers, require that all materials:
• Are aligned with accessibility standards.
o WCAG 2.0 (minimum level AA compliance).
o Section 508 (or Section 508 Refresh once approved).
• Are created using best practices.
• Are tested for accessibility, including by users with disabilities.
2. Incorporate accessibility into your purchasing policies and practices. Ensure your policies:
• Establish accessibility criteria for review that all materials are required to meet (if not, see step 1).
• Require vendors to provide accessible digital materials that meet specific access requirements to the maximum extent possible (if not, see step 1).
• Bring special education and assistive technology professionals into discussions about the purchase and adoption of instructional materials.
3. If you are entering into contracts, include language about accessibility. A draft of example language includes the following:
For digital materials (applies to commercial and open education resources [OER]):
Vendor represents that the digital instructional materials delivered under this contract or purchase order conform to, at a minimum, the standards for accessibility as set forth in:
• Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (29 U.S.C. § 794d), and its implementing regulations (36 C.F.R. § 1194), or
• Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 (minimum of Level AA conformance).
Should any portion of the materials not conform to the aforementioned standards of accessibility, vendor agrees to provide a written explanation of the reason for non-conformance. Submission of a complete Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) will satisfy the requirement to provide a written explanation. Vendor further agrees to provide alternative means for access to the instructional materials during the period of non-conformance to students who may qualify in accordance with the Act entitled "An Act to provide books for the adult blind" approved March 3, 1931 (2 U.S.C. 135a).
For additional information, please refer to the National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM) at CAST.
It is expected that accessibility information will be made available from publishers/developers and that their representatives are aware of and can explain it. When accessibility information is not easily found:
• Do an initial scan of the material using best practices and accessibility checkers when possible using a suggested accessibility tool such as WEBAIM.
• Contact the publisher/developer, and ask the following questions:
o Is the material compliant with accessibility standards such as WCAG 2.0 (minimum level AA compliance) or Section 508 (Section 508 Refresh once approved)?
o In what ways is it compliant?
o In what ways it is not compliant?
o Was the material created using best practices in accessibility?
o Was the material tested for accessibility, including by users with a variety of disabilities?
o What types of disabilities were considered in testing?
o What specific tests were conducted?
o What individual should be the primary contact for accessibility questions?
If you have questions, contact Joan Breslin Larson.