Frequently Asked Questions

What is IT Accessibility?

IT accessibility is the set of strategies, guidelines, and resources that make EIR accessible to people with disabilities. It involves developing policies and implementing processes to ensure that everyone has equal access to information. The spectrum of disabilities include those affecting vision, hearing, motor and cognitive skills.

What does EIR mean?

EIR is an acronym for Electronic and Information Resources. Some terms that may be used interchangeably:

EIR Accessibility = IT Accessibility = ICT (Information and Communications Technology) Accessibility

According to the proposed TAMU rule which supports state and federal laws, EIR include, but are not limited to:

  • Software applications and operating systems
  • Websites, including both Internet and intranet
  • Telecommunications products
  • Video and multimedia products
  • Self-contained, closed products, such as copiers, printers and fax machines
  • Desktop and portable computers

Is procurement of accessible EIR required?

Yes. Federal and state laws require institutions of higher learning to procure the most accessible products possible to meet a given business need.

What laws are the basis for procuring accessible EIR?

EIR developed, procured or significantly changed by institutions of higher learning in the state of Texas must comply with accessibility standards and specifications within 1 TAC §206 and 1 TAC §213. These standards, along with federal standards defined in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act as amended by the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 serve as guideposts for diversity and inclusion at Texas A&M University. These standards apply to EIR developed, procured, maintained or used by TAMU directly, or by a third party, acting as an agent of, or on behalf of, the university, or through procured services (vendor) contracts; and, EIR services provided through hosted or managed services contracts.

EIR CategoryTechnical Accessibility Standards
Software Applications and Operating Systems Title 1, Rule §213.30 of the Texas Administrative Code
Websites
Telecommunications Products Title 1, Rule §213.31 of the Texas Administrative Code
Video and Multimedia Products Title 1, Rule §213.32 of the Texas Administrative Code
Self Contained, Closed Products Title 1, Rule §213.33 of the Texas Administrative Code
Desktop and Portable Computers Title 1, Rule §213.34 of the Texas Administrative Code

Why is procurement of accessible EIR so important?

Ensuring the procurement of accessible Electronic and Information Resources (EIR) is the first step to enabling everyone—including those with disabilities—to perceive, understand, navigate and interact with technology. Specifically:

  • It's the right thing to do. It supports our long-standing tradition of inclusiveness and promotes a key Texas A&M mission of diversity.
  • It makes sense. As an institution, it allows us to reach more individuals with our teaching and learning initiatives, with our research findings and with the real-life applications associated with each of them.
  • It's required by law. As a state-supported institution, as well as one that receives federal funding for grants and initiatives, our university is required to provide accessible EIR.

What is a VPAT and how is it used?

The Voluntary Product Accessibility Template®, or VPAT®, allows those who procure goods or services to make preliminary assessments regarding the accessibility of Electronic and Information Resources (EIR). By outlining how EIR measure up to specific criteria found in Section 508, the VPAT allows for comparisons of EIR being considered to fulfill a business need.

How should I obtain a VPAT?

Vendors may voluntarily provide the VPAT on their websites as part of their product or service offerings, however you may need to request it when contemplating an EIR purchase. See procurement tips including use of the VPAT.

I'm having trouble finding a solution that measures up to the criteria in the VPAT; what should I do?

Oftentimes, there may be no perfectly accessible product or service to meet a given business need, however with proper research and/or modifications to configurations and settings, users with disabilities may still be able to utilize it effectively.

How can I make a difference within my campus unit?

  • Ask questions; if vendors have never heard of accessibility, chances are their products and services are not accessible.
  • Request a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) from vendors; if they don't have one, ask them to fill one out.
  • Make accessibility a part of RFPs, Purchase Order requests, and other essential parts of your business processes.
  • If two or more products or services are comparable, choose the most accessible one.

What steps can be taken to ensure procurement of accessible EIR?

  • Do your homework by researching the accessibility of a given product or service before taking steps to purchase it.
  • Request a VPAT, and if a vendor does not have one readily available, provide a blank copy and instructions so company representatives may complete one. These may also be available as resources on vendor websites.
  • Compare several products or services that meet your business need, and choose the one best fits your need as well as accessibility requirements.
  • Get your procurement and contract offices involved. They oftentimes have accessibility language ready to insert into contracts and can work with specific vendors to ensure compliance.
  • For additional information, enlist the help of the Texas A&M IT accessibility team by emailing itaccessibility@tamu.edu.

What should I do if there is no accessible alternative to the EIR selected?

All websites, web applications, and other electronic and information resources (EIR) must comply with certain technical accessibility standards (see the EIR Accessibility Standards table below). If achieving compliance with these standards is not possible, an EIR Accessibility Exception Request Form (pdf) must be submitted for each non-compliant EIR. It is important to note that an approved exception request is not an exemption from making EIR accessible. Instead, it is documentation of temporary acceptance of risk until the EIR or associated service can be brought into compliance through modification, substitution with a comparable EIR, or discontinuation of use due to end of life (EOL).

What steps are involved once I complete an Accessibility Exception Request?

  1. Fill out the EIR Accessibility Exception Request Form (pdf).
  2. Send a saved copy of the completed PDF form to itaccessibility@tamu.edu.
  3. The request will be reviewed by the EIR Accessibility Coordinator and recommendations will be made regarding the EIR in question.
  4. If recommended, the request will be routed to the President through the CIO.
  5. The requestor will be notified of the final decision.*

Did you know?

  • In the United States, about 55 million people have a disability (src: 2010 U.S. Census).
  • About 1 in 5 Americans have some kind of disability (src: 2010 U.S. Census).
  • The percentage of people affected by disabilities is growing as our population ages.
  • Two popular, free screen readers are VoiceOver (Mac OS and iOS) and NVDA (Win).
  • Good accessibility practices can improve the search ranking of your website.
  • Form fields without labels can cause problems for some assistive technology users.
  • Low color contrast makes content difficult to see, especially for users with low vision.
  • Documents linked on a website need to be accessible too (e.g., PDF and Word files).
  • Audio content, like podcasts, need transcripts for deaf or hard of hearing users.
  • Online videos should be captioned for deaf or hard of hearing users.
  • Using HTML tags correctly is very important for accessibility.
  • Descriptive link text helps make a website more accessible. Avoid using "Click here" or "Read more."
  • A "screen reader" is an application that reads content aloud to a user.
  • There is no "alt tag" in HTML. "Alt" is an attribute used with the img tag.
  • HTML uses the alt attribute to provide a text description of an image.
  • Alt text should describe an image, if the purpose of the image is to convey information.
  • If an image is a link, the alt text for the image should explain where the link goes.
  • If an image is only being used for decoration, the alt text should be null (i.e., alt="").
  • If a table has headers, using header tags (<th>) will make the table more accessible.
  • An accessible website is one that can be navigated and understood by everyone.