IT Accessibility Best Practices for Researchers
The University of Maryland is committed to creating and maintaining a welcoming and inclusive educational and working environment for people of all abilities, and to assuring equal access to information and services for all its constituencies.
It is important that all research activities are performed and designed consistent with the following IT accessibility guidelines:
- The University System of Maryland Web Accessibility guidelines determines that accessibility within all USM websites and web accessibility guidelines should be adhered to on each campus. These guidelines are aligned with the UMD web accessibility policy and need to be used for website accessibility in the areas of development, auditing, correcting, and monitoring. The University strictly adheres to USM website accessibility guidelines.
- The University of Maryland Web Accessibility Policy sets the minimum standards for the accessibility of all University web-based information used to conduct University business and academic activities.
This document provides relevant information for researchers looking to learn more about IT accessibility, including accessibility best practices for research such as:
- Pre-award - planning your grant proposal.
- Conducting research with people with disabilities
- Relevant information related to the procurement of technologies used in research.
- Reporting research in an inclusive way.
The article also includes IT accessibility resources and requirements relevant to the research activity and information on how to contact UMD experts to get support.
Accessibility best practices for research
Pre-award - planning your grant proposal
- Many research organizations strongly value accessibility. Making the case for and highlighting that the products/outcomes of the research project will be accessible strengthen the proposal.
- Budget for accessibility-related items (captioning, website, remediation of documents, etc)
- Supporting and sustaining research activities and deliverables requires dedicated staffing, resources, and funding. PIs need to ensure that lines of budget are added to the research proposal to include costs related to accessibility such as video captioning, document remediation, training, and development of materials and deliverables in accessible formats.
- Training and professional development for staff on basic IT Accessibility principles. Research team members should be equipped to design standardized, reusable, accessible web templates, forms, surveys, data visualizations, documents, and reports that meet accessibility guidelines.
- Researchers are encouraged to use the tools and services offered by the DIT IT Accessibility office.
Conduct research with people with disabilities
- Information during recruitment
- Ensure that you ask participants in advance if they need any accommodations (e.g., live captioning, Sign language interpreters, receiving questions in advance, electronic documents, documents in large print, etc.) in order to participate in your research study.
- Survey tools
- Accessible forms are easy to understand, complete, and submit. Instructions, cues, required form fields, and field formatting requirements must be clearly identified to users. Refer to form accessibility guidelines from WebAim.
- Video conferencing and online meetings/interviews
- Accessibility can and should be seamlessly integrated into your meeting online.
- Electronic Signatures
- Electronic signatures are used to digitally validate or acknowledge such things as PDF documents, online forms, or specialized e-signature software. As more government services move online, it's our responsibility to ensure that everyone can independently access and use electronic signature solutions, including:
Relevant information related to the procurement of technologies used in research
All technology procurements, including technology for research and development, need to follow the compliance review process for security, privacy, and accessibility.
- The University of Maryland Procurement Office requires the IT Accessibility Addendum between the seller and the University of Maryland to be incorporated into the contract and apply to the seller’s deliverables as defined in the addendum document.
- Initiate the compliance review by submitting a request to firstname.lastname@example.org. DIT IT Compliance team will coordinate the review for security.
- The IT accessibility evaluation of new technologies is facilitated by the “unit/researcher/PI” by requesting the following from the vendor:
- IT Accessibility evaluation form (provided by DIT upon request).
- Part 1 is to be completed by the UMD unit or department requesting the accessibility evaluation.
- Part 2 is to be completed by the vendor.
- Recent accessibility documentation such as a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) or other accessibility evaluation demonstrating how the product meets accessibility standards and guidelines such as WCAG 2.0 A and AA.
- The documentation provided must have been completed within two years of completing this form and be from the same version of the product that UMD plans to procure. VPATs more than two years old will not be accepted.
Report research in an inclusive way
- Reports and documents
- All documents produced such as papers and reports need to follow IT Accessibility guidelines. Below are resources on how to create accessible documents on different platforms.
- Training, webinars, conference presentations
- Data Visualizations
- Federal Grants requiring section 508
- Grants awarded by federal agencies may include fulfilling section 508 requirements for deliverables as federal agencies are responsible for ensuring their information and services are accessible to persons with disabilities. The Revised 508 Standards include accessibility guidelines for IT tools and systems, and electronic content such as documents, web pages, presentations, social media content, blogs, and certain emails.
IT accessibility resources and requirements relevant to research activity
- Contact us at email@example.com for questions or schedule an individual consultation related to digital accessibility.
- Contact the UMD ADA coordinator’s office at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions regarding accessibility compliance.