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Guidelines for Purchasers

Testing before you buy

As a small institution, Swarthmore does not have a centralized purchasing office. As a result, independent purchases of apps and software of varying complexities are being made without consciously considering usability and accessibility implications. What follows are some guidelines and how to’s to help us all keep accessibility in mind as we make these purchases.

What is Digital Accessibility?

Digital accessibility means providing the same user experience when people access websites, mobile applications, software, and electronic documents. We want to ensure these are easily navigated and understood by a wide range of users, including those users who have visual, auditory, motor or cognitive disabilities.

Impact - Why Choose Accessibility

At our institutional core is the desire to contribute to the creation of a world that is just, humane, and sustainable. We also have a very real desire to get our work done effectively and efficiently. Technology can sometimes help us meet this second goal, but not always the first. The tools and platforms we choose to use make a real difference in increasing ease of use for all users. You can have a direct and positive impact on our community when you choose accessibility.

Working through these steps will help us make purchases that better serve users of all abilities.

Our goals are to:

  • be true to our mission of a more just, humane and sustainable world
  • purchase reasonably priced, high-quality electronic services
  • meet our legal obligations
  • better serve users of all abilities

How - Preliminary Testing Anyone Can Do

Testing for accessibility can be complex and involved. Fortunately, the techniques detailed below are not. These are very preliminary steps and are best used during the initial vetting process -- when you are trying to narrow choices. They are actionable ways you can have a positive impact.

Put Away Your Mouse

Can you get to the different parts of the page using just the tab, arrows, space bar, and return/enter keys?

Here is a great article about how to navigate without using a mouse or trackpad.

Use High Contrast

Turn on high contrast mode. Is the screen a lot clearer when you do this?

Two ways to do this:

Turn Off Images

Without the images can you still figure out what to do?

One way to do this:

Check for captions or transcripts.

What happens if you turn off sound for video or audio files? Can you figure out what is going on? Is there a way to read captions? Are transcripts available?

Next Steps

  1. Ask the chosen vendors to complete our Security and Accessibility Questionnaire.
  2. Get in touch with with answers to the following questions:
    • Who will be interacting with this software or electronic device (e.g. students, faculty, staff, campus visitors, the general public?)
    • Are they performing an essential task via this software or electronic device, i.e. a class assignment or task connected with pay/benefits or registration? Is there an alternative to using this software or electronic device?
    • Approximately how many people will be affected?
    • What problem is this software or device attempting to address?
    • Will the software need to be integrated with another system on campus?
    • To your knowledge, does the company have an accessibility policy?
    • Does the company have an individual to contact about accessibility questions? If so, what is their contact information?

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: If I can test only one thing, which one will tell me the most?

A: The easiest and most impactful is to test using only your keyboard.

Q: What are examples of items do I need to be concerned with?

A: Just about everything that is digitally based will fall under this umbrella. Our Guidelines for Vendors page has a fairly comprehensive list. Here is a short list of some of those items:

  • Web sites
  • Software and mobile applications
  • Computer operating systems
  • Computers
  • Multimedia

Q: Why do I have to test for accessibility? Isn't there someone else who should be doing this kind of test?

A: Creating an inclusive environment is everyone's responsibility. You are in a position that allows you to choose software or electronic devices. Just as you perform an initial vetting for security you must also perform an initial vetting for accessibility.  Once a product is chosen and we have all the necessary information detailed above, we will perform more in-depth testing for WCAG compliance.

Have more questions?

Please send an email to Thanks for taking the time to reach out to us with your question, we will do our best to get back to you quickly.