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Communicating Digital Accessibility Requirements

States, school districts, universities, and job training programs can improve access to learning opportunities by communicating digital accessibility requirements as part of the curriculum adoption or procurement process. Did you know that under federal law education agencies and institutions are obligated to ensure that learners with disabilities can access the materials and technologies chosen for a curriculum? A common misconception is that this responsibility is on developers and vendors. 

One way that your agency or institution can communicate a commitment to digital accessibility requirements is to include clear language in RFPs, Instructional Materials Adoption, and in contracts. If you represent a K-12 agency that is purchasing print or digital textbooks and related core instructional materials, see NIMAS in Purchase Orders and Contracts for additional guidance.

Sample Language for Digital Accessibility Requirements

Please copy/paste and adapt this sample language in RFPs, Instructional Materials Adoption, and in contracts.

[Agency name] requires digital materials and technologies to be accessible to students, employees, and community members with disabilities. Digital materials and technologies should conform to the standards for accessibility 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). The Revised Section 508 incorporates the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) by reference. Web and non-web content (including websites and documents) is required to conform to the most current version of WCAG at level AA in order to meet Section 508 requirements. Beyond Section 508, additional specifications are defined according to the type of material or the delivery format. Please refer to the attached guidance for additional information on those specifications.

Conformance to the specified standards can be documented through the submission of an up-to-date, complete, and accurate Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR). The ACR should be based on the latest version of the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT®), which can be obtained from the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) website.

The ACR’s Remarks and Explanations for each criterion should include an explanation of not only how the criterion is supported, but also how that support was validated and tested. For any criterion that is not fully supported, an explanation of the barriers created by the criterion not being supported should also be included. If the criterion does not apply, an explanation should be provided.

In addition to a current and accurate ACR, priority will be given to product submissions whose conformance is documented through the completion of an independent, third-party audit that does not rely solely on an automated scan but also includes manual testing. If the ACR is completed by a third party and includes verification of manual testing, that ACR can serve as the independent audit.

Updated documentation, including an assurance of continued compliance, should be provided on an annual basis, or whenever a significant product update takes place. Any questions about documentation requirements should be directed to [accessibility team] at [email address and telephone number].

Specifications by Material Type or Delivery Format

These additional specifications are defined according to the type of material or the delivery format. They should be included with the sample language to provide helpful guidance to vendors based on their products. 

Web-Based Materials

Web-based materials should conform to the most current applicable versions of the following standards:

  • The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) at level AA
  • The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) specification
  • The MathML specification for digital mathematical notation

Publications and Documents

Portable Document Format (PDF) documents should be tagged and conform to PDF/UA (PDF/Universal Accessibility).

EPUB publications should conform to the most current version of the EPUB specification. They should also conform to the EPUB Accessibility specification. A third-party certification can help vendors confirm that their publications meet these specifications. This certification should be noted in the publication’s metadata along with other required metadata needed to determine how the publication meets specific learner needs. EPUB publications should also conform to the most current ARIA specification and use MathML for digital mathematical notation.

Software and Apps

For optimal interoperability, it is recommended that software and mobile applications (apps) conform to the latest version of the User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG). If the software or app can be used to author content, the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG) may also apply.

Related resources

Providing Accessibility Guidance to Vendors

Vendors and developers of digital learning materials and technologies can benefit from accessibility guidance provided by education agencies and institutions.

NIMAS in Purchase Orders & Contracts

Find sample language for NIMAS to include in purchase orders or contracts with publishers and vendors.

Module 4: Selecting Accessible Digital Materials & Technologies

Learn how to select digital materials that are accessible for everyone, including individuals with disabilities.

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