HHS Electronic and Information Resources (EIR) Accessibility Contract & Procurement Training
Learning Objectives Understanding: • physical disabilities and demographics • EIR accessibility laws, regulations, and impacts • how accessibility fits into HHS agency purchases and processes • the new HHS Uniform EIR Accessibility Clause and its applicability • how to assess accessibility in solicitation responses • the exception process
Accessibility for People with Disabilities Accessibility is the degree to which a product or service is usable by as many people as possible. Accessibility for people with disabilities focuses on their right to access information and services, often through the use of assistive technology.
Program Accessibility Examples of removing barriers and using assistive technologies to make programs accessible to the public and employees with disabilities: • telecommunication devices for people with hearing impairments • accessible parking, entrances, and restrooms • audio recordings and text transcription • accessible Websites and online forms • services offered at a different location if physical barriers cannot be removed
EIR Accessibility State agencies must provide comparable access to information resources to both employees and the public with and without disabilities: • Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 508 • Government Code, Chapter 2054, Subchapter M and • 1 Texas Administrative Code, Chapters 206 and 213 Examples of electronic and information resources: telephones & telephone systems computers websites/electronic documents videos copiers & multi-function copiers fax machines Employees should design electronic information such as emails, spreadsheets, Word documents, and PDFs using accessibility guidelines.
Accessibility Benefits Accessibility benefits everyone—not just people with disabilities. As we age, we may require accommodation or assistive technology to ensure access to employment and services. An accident may cause a temporary or permanent disability. Accessible electronic information and software designed to accessibility standards tends to be more compatible with software upgrades, other devices and technologies.
EIR Accessibility Coordinator • mandated by Texas Administrative Code for each agency • coordinates accessibility activities • provides guidance to senior management • develops accessibility strategy • implements and supports agency-wide policies and processes • facilitates the exception process
EIR Accessibility Subject Matter Experts Subject matter experts have expert knowledge in accessibility, testing tools, and remediation and provide accessibility: • testing • training and consulting • remediation
Accessibility in Procurement Goals: • to purchase the most accessible products • to ensure effective and efficient access to EIR • to comply with Texas EIR Accessibility Law • compliance is a primary selection factor (1 TAC 206 and 213) • compliance must be verified • vendors may need accessibility training • HHS website (http://hhscx.hhsc.state.tx.us/EIR/) • Knowbility (http://www.knowbility.org/main/) • EASI (http://easi.cc) • WebAIM (http://www.webaim.org)
Clause at a Glance Applies if: • a contract requires the contractor to purchase or develop EIR for an HHS agency • there is a change or renewal to any HHS agency EIR contract • the contract requires the contractor to perform a service or supply goods that include EIR that HHS agency employees or members of the public use Does not apply to “incidental use” of EIR in the performance of a contract.
Clause Applicability – Direct Use of EIR Clause Required: Direct Use of EIR The clause applies to purchasing or leasing EIR goods or services used to fulfill a detailed contract specification or statement of work. Common examples include: • software used on HHS public facing websites • copiers and multi-function copiers that will be used by HHS employees • software or websites used by HHS employees or contractors • services provided through externally hosted websites used by the public or HHS employees
Clause Applicability – Indirect Use of EIR Clause Required: Indirect Use of EIR The use of EIR by a vendor to fulfill a contract for goods or services may be a common type of purchase where agencies could inadvertently overlook the accessibility specifications. Common examples include: • contracting for HR services that may be delivered through a website or telephone system • contracting for wellness services that may be delivered through web-based multimedia or video conferencing system • contracting for training or technical support that may be delivered through electronic handbooks or forms, or through a Web-based or telephone system • purchasing transaction services that require the public to interact with EIR through interoperable controls, video screens, menus, or websites as in the use of a debit card reader or ticket kiosk
Clause Applicability – Incidental Use of EIR Clause Not Required: Incidental Use of EIR EIR is considered incidental or insignificant for purposes of a contract when the EIR: • will not be used or accessed by employees or members of the public in the performance of the contract (vendor has internal email system for use by its employees) • will not become the property of the agency (vendor has automated time and leave system for use by its employees) • is used by a contractor's employees to access or manipulate information that is not used by HHS employees or the public (vendor has testing software to test its products before release)
Clause – Vendor Obligation The vendor must provide HHS agencies timely access to the product and documentation, including information about accessibility of the product. A Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) is: • a disclosure statement • the most often-used method to disclose product compliance with 508 standards • a standard reporting template that helps contracting officials and other buyers assess product accessibility • does not guarantee compliance
Clause – Evaluation, Testing and Monitoring HHS agencies may evaluate, test and monitor a vendor’s product before and after the contract is awarded. Failure to do so does not waive HHS right to insist on compliance. Contract managers, program staff, and EIR Accessibility Coordinators work together to monitor vendor performance to ensure goods and services are accessible as required in the contract.
Clause – Representations and Warranties Vendor • guarantees the product is in compliance with requirements • will notify the HHS agency if the vendor becomes aware of noncompliance • will remediate, replace, and upgrade the product, or provide a suitable substitute in the case of non compliance
Clause - Remedies Breach of contract The Contractor will be liable for direct and consequential damages and any other remedies to which the HHS agency may be entitled.
EIR Accessibility Requirements in Solicitations Language should be included in EIR-related solicitation stating Vendor products must conform with all applicable Electronic and Information Resources standards (Section 508) §1194.4 Definitions (www.access-board.gov/sec508/standards.htm) and Texas Administrative Code Chapters 206B and 213A. This applies to all EIR developed and procured. Vendors must include an acceptable form of documentation in their bid responses. An example is a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT). HHS may require access to the product to test for accessibility before completing the purchase. For products or services developed for agency use, the vendor should submit additional documentation.
What is a VPAT? • a standardized template used in the industry • a vendor-generated, product-specific statement that provides relevant and specific information about compliance with Section 508 Standards • helps staff make preliminary assessments of the degree of accessibility compliance in a vendor’s EIR • allows staff to evaluate accessibility compliance consistently across multiple vendors
Analyzing the VPAT Engage the agency’s Accessibility Coordinator when purchasing EIR. VPATs may contain inaccurate or misleading information; clarification questions can be asked of the vendor. Red Flags: • the use of N/A (not applicable) in areas of the VPAT criteria that are known to be applicable • global, nonspecific accessibility statements • “supported with exceptions” • very long “remarks” on minor exceptions • no VPAT available
EIR Exception Process If the purchase does not comply with HHS Policy, an exception form must be submitted through the EIR accessibility coordinator before the final contract is awarded. Include any exception in the final contract document. The EIR accessibility exception does not eliminate the risks associated with non-accessible EIR and the responsibility to provide an accessible solution.
Exception Process Continued The EIR accessibility exception: • must provide solid justification for purchasing non-accessible EIR: • non-availability of accessible products • fundamental alteration required to make accessible • cost prohibitive to make EIR accessible • must include an “alternate means of access” • must be signed by the agency commissioner The Exception Request Form HHS570 can be found in the HHS EIR Accessibility Policy Manual (http://hhscx.hhsc.state.tx.us/EIR/)or on the HHSC Forms Website, listed as HHSC_570 (http://hhsc-online.hhsc.state.tx.us/handbook/forms.asp).
Resources for Further Learning • HHS Agency EIR Coordinators • for guidelines, training and information about making documents and materials accessible, look for accessibility information links on your agency's intranet or HHSC Accessibility website (http://hhscx.hhsc.state.tx.us/EIR/) • a blank VPAT can be found on the ECPS Intranet Site (http://hhscx.hhsc.state.tx.us/Admin/purch/forms.shtml)