Selecting a Material

It is important to be a careful consumer when it comes to selecting material that is accessible. Not all digital materials are accessible, and even materials that claim to be accessible may not meet all accessibility standards. It is important to think critically about how to ensure that purchased material will meet standards. And, if it does not, it is also important to have a clear plan in place for remediation prior to implementation/distribution.  

Step 1 – Establish goals and discuss stakeholders  

When selecting materials, it is always important to start with clear goals and to include as many stakeholders as possible. This will help ensure that the materials you are looking for meet everyone’s needs.  

  • What materials are you looking to purchase?  
  • Why do you need to purchase the materials?  
  • Who is accessing the materials?  

Step 2 – Create a plan for reviewing the materials  

Once you have your goals and stakeholder needs in mind, create a clear plan for how you will review the material before purchasing. This plan can include:  

  • Reviewing available information about accessibility of the material  
  • Requesting additional information from the vendor (see Working with Vendors) 
  • Reaching out to others who have used the material already.  
    • Are there other higher education partners that have used the material/product in the past?  
    • Have others already completed an accessibility review?  
    • Do others have information about overall usability or accessibility concerns?  
  • If already available (for example with Open Educational Resources), reviewing the material for accessibility.  
    • Can you perform an automated audit?  
    • Can you perform a manual audit?  

Step 3 – Audit potential products for accessibility 

Once you have created your audit plan, it is time to put it into action.  

  • What are the key findings around accessibility?  
  • How is the product accessible?  
    • What features are accessible?  
    • To whom are the features accessible to?  
  • How is the product inaccessible?  
    • How does the inaccessible aspect interfere with usability?  
    • To whom would it be inaccessible?  
    • Are there any features that are accessible to some, but not to others?  

Step 4 – Make a determination about whether to purchase the product 

Once you have completed your audit, it is time to carefully think about whether the product is appropriate to purchase or not. The reality is that we should only purchase accessible materials or materials that we have the autonomy to make accessible ourselves (not ideal due to the work and complication associated with this). If a product is inaccessible or has inaccessible features there are a few potential options:  

  1. Search for a new product that meets accessibility standards  
  2. Discuss the issues with the vendor to determine:  
    • If they are aware of the issues 
    • If they are currently working on a remediation plan 
    • If they are equally committed to accessibility for future iterations  
  3. Discuss whether there are equitable options for inaccessible features (many times there are not)