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Module 4: Selecting Accessible Digital Materials & Technologies

While more flexible than print, if accessibility is not considered from the start, digital materials can present many of the same barriers as their print-based counterparts. And the technology that delivers those materials, from devices to learning management systems, must work with accessible digital materials for individuals with disabilities to have the same experience as those who do not have disabilities. In this module, you will learn how to evaluate the accessibility of digital materials and technologies before they are procured.

This module is composed of a recorded webinar and up to four hours of additional activities. Each level has a time commitment of approximately one hour. Choose how many levels you complete by the amount of time you want to spend developing your skills.

Begin by watching this one-hour webinar, which explains:

  • Understanding accessibility standards (Section 508, WCAG)
  • VPAT: What it is and how to use it
  • Sources of accessible digital content
  • OERs and accessibility
  • Five things educators can do to buy accessible

Digital Handout (MS Word)

Webinar Slides (PowerPoint)

Level 1: Start

Goal: Explain the importance of selecting accessible digital materials to a colleague.
Time Commitment: 2 hours (including the one-hour webinar)

Build Understanding

Reflect & Take Action

A colleague is on a committee that is selecting a new digital learning material for adoption in your district, university or agency. They ask for your input. In addition to content and standards-specific criteria, what are three recommendations you would make related to accessibility?

Level 2: Reach

Goal: Select accessible digital materials and technologies for use in teaching and learning.
Time Commitment: 3 hours (including the one-hour webinar and the Level 1 activities)

Build Understanding

Reflect & Take Action

Select a digital material or technology used in your district, university, or agency (e.g., learning management system, ebook, software or hardware). Preferably, choose a product that you use. Research the following:

  • Is there an accessibility statement somewhere on the developer's website detailing how accessibility has been addressed? If so, how easy was it to locate?
  • Which accessibility standards does the developer claim to follow?
  • Based on your own evaluation of the product with Vetting for Accessibility, how well does the product address the four POUR principles of accessible design?
  • Consider contacting the developer to share your findings.

Level 3: Stretch

Goal: Advocate for digital accessibility to be embedded in your district, university, or other agency procurement policy and procedures. 
Time Commitment: 4 hours (including the one-hour webinar and the Level 1 & Level 2 activities)

Build Understanding

Reflect & Take Action 

Obtain the digital material procurement policy and any related forms used by your district, university, or agency. Research the following:

  • Do the policy and related procedures include accessibility requirements? If so, to what extent do those requirements reflect the AEM Center’s sample language? Look for the following indicators:
    • Specific references to Section 508 and the current version of WCAG level AA
    • Accessibility specifications for the material being procured (web-based, publication, or software)
    • A request for a current Accessibility Conformance Report
    • A requirement of an annual assurance that the product continues to conform to the stated accessibility standards
    • The name and contact information of a representative from your district, university, or agency
  • Request a meeting with the procurement personnel in your district, university, or agency. In addition to sharing your findings, consider the following topics for discussion:
    • If you didn’t find evidence that accessibility is a procurement consideration, explain what you know about why it should be added. Point to the available resources that support improvement.
    • If accessibility is included in procurement requirements but can be strengthened, provide specific recommendations. 
    • If it’s clear that accessibility is already embedded in the vetting and decision-making process, ask about what that looks like in practice. For example, are review committees trained in accessibility? Do communications with vendors include meaningful deliberations about accessibility?
    • Conclude with final suggestions that may not have been addressed. Be sure to raise awareness about the AEM Center’s recommendations for providing accessibility guidance to vendors. 
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