States have a unique opportunity to help make their websites and apps easier to use for people with disabilities: They can force their vendors to make it a priority.
That’s according to a new report from the National Association of State Chief Information Officers. Authors say states should establish accessibility requirements for vendors with whom they contract. The report also lays out a set of benchmarks — called the Policy-Driven Adoption for Accessibility, or PDAA — by which states could judge vendors’ efforts.
If enough states apply these benchmarks, vendors would realize the importance of emphasizing accessibility, authors said.
“Building a critical mass of public sector organizations which adopt the PDAA policy criteria for their vendor communities provides the needed leverage to help vendors realize the benefits of building accessible offerings,” said the report, released Thursday. “Vendors can then use the PDAA criteria as a tool to help them develop and implement internal policies and processes which will ultimately yield more accessible and inclusive offerings.”
The PDAA calls on vendors to develop an information and communications technology policy. They’d use that policy to establish and maintain an organizational structure to ensure that the accessibility is integrated into their offerings. The criteria also has the vendors select an “executive sponsor,” who monitors accessibility matters.
Next, the PDAA has vendors integrate their technology accessibility criteria into development, procurement, acquisitions and other business processes, and then provide a process to fix technology deemed inaccessible. NASCIO encourages vendors to provide a way to make existing technology more accessible while newer methods are still in development. And throughout that process, NASCIO encouraged vendors to make that process transparent.
“Providing information about how core criteria are met gives procurement organizations additional data points on vendors’ ability and commitment to ICT accessibility,” the criteria said.
The report also includes a set of metrics to help state procurement officials gauge how well a vendor has implemented an accessibility policy. The so-called PDAA Maturity Model is based on similar tools created in Minnesota and Texas. Alongside the self-assessment tool, NASCIO developed an implementation timetable to help vendors integrate technology accessibility policy into their existing products and workflow.
“ICT accessibility is a journey; it won’t occur overnight and will always require monitoring,” the report said.
NASCIO ultimately aims to kick-start accessibility adoption. While nearly all states have some sort of regulation or policy in place on tech accessibility, compliance has been average at best, according to the group.
This report comes after NASCIO released a report last month calling on states to set up their own PDAA framework. In a release, NASCIO Executive Director Doug Robinson said it’s incumbent upon states to prioritize accessibility themselves.
“States have an obligation to set the public policy direction and the opportunity to stimulate the capabilities of the supplier community,” NASCIO’s executive director, Doug Robinson, said in a release.