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Vended Product Review Process

An overview of the web accessibility review process for vended web products.

This article applies to: Web Accessibility

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What Vended Products Need a Review

Under University Policy 5.12, all vended products used at Cornell should meet the current Web Content Accessibility Guidelines standard. This means all vended products should undergo a review process, whether by the unit that intends to use the product or by the CIT Web Accessibility team. A good way to begin this process is to always request a VPAT  (Voluntary Product Accessibility Template) or other accessibility conformance report (ACR) for the product/service when you are doing your initial vetting of the product. Once you have chosen a product/service, it is ideal to perform an accessibility review to confirm that the VPAT or ACR's claims are accurate. Who should perform that review depends on how the product or service will be used. Most products and services will fit into one of the following categories.

Category 1

The CIT Web Accessibility team should perform reviews for new products that units plan to adopt and for products that units would like to renew that will be available to and used by:

  • Alumni and the general public via Cornell web properties

  • Most or all students, particularly products that are necessary for course activities; university business and student status maintenance; and extracurricular activities

  • Most or all faculty and staff

Category 2

Units should perform or arrange for testing on their own for products that are behind a login and are available to:

  • A limited subset of faculty and staff
  • A limited, controlled subset of students (i.e., small groups of student workers who will be supervised and managed while using the product)

Category 3

Units should perform or arrange for basic vetting for products that the unit is considering using, but has not yet chosen to adopt.

Units can hire the CIT Web Accessibility team to perform reviews for Category 2 and Category 3 products, but training is also available to help units learn how to perform these reviews on their own. The “Recommended Web Accessibility Testing Plan” page gives more information about what and how to test websites and browser-based apps for accessibility. The Web Accessibility team is available for consultations during RFP evaluation processes.

IT Governance and Web Accessibility Reviews

If your product goes through the IT Governance (Statement of Need) process, answering the question about a “web front end” with “yes” will result in the need to also complete the Web Accessibility Triage process. If your responses to the Web Accessibility Triage questions demonstrate the product to fit Category 1 above, you will need to follow up on by completing the Web Accessibility Evaluation form in the CIT Support Catalog. Note that the Web Accessibility team will not begin the review process until you contact us using that form.

Ideally, the Web Accessibility team will be able to complete the review before the product is adopted or renewed, but due to the high number of products in use at the university, the Web Accessibility team’s review list for vended products is long. With new purchases, we are happy to work with units during the RPF process if there is one.

If we cannot schedule the review before a renewal is due or the product is scheduled to be used/launched, the Web Accessibility team can issue a provisional approval for use of the product before the review takes place. Once the review has taken place, the Web Accessibility team will issue more specific guidance on whether the product should continue to be used.

In order to avoid adopting a product that the Web Accessibility team may end up identifying as having critical barriers, we strongly recommend using the process outlined on the “Recommended Web Accessibility Testing Plan” page to run your own quick accessibility check before you decide to adopt a product.

Vended Product Review Costs

For products in Category 1, the CIT Web Accessibility team will perform the review free of charge.

If a unit chooses to hire the CIT Web Accessibility team to perform a review of a Category 2 product, the unit will be charged at the standard Custom Development rates for that fiscal year. The Web Accessibility team will provide a low end/high end estimate before accepting the work, and the unit must approve the high-end estimate before work begins (units will only be charged for the actual hours worked).

Vended products that fit Category 3 vary widely; some very basic vetting can be performed free of charge, but more in-depth testing of a product under consideration may be charged at the standard Custom Development rates for that fiscal year. Please contact the Web Accessibility team via the Web Accessibility Evaluation form to discuss your needs and the potential costs.

Review Turnaround Time

The Web Accessibility team is scheduling product reviews 12 months out due to the volume of vended digital products and services in use at the university. We recommend that units contact the Web Accessibility team as early as possible to schedule reviews for new products and products that units intend to renew.

How to Request a Vended Product Review

To request a vended product review, please use the Web Accessibility Evaluation form in the CIT Support Catalog. This form replaces the previous MS Word document version of the request form and will soon be linked in the Web Accessibility Triage outcomes instead of that Word document version of the form.

Fill in the form as fully as possible; the more information we receive through the form, the more quickly we schedule the review. Particularly important is the identification of an access point and login credentials for the reviewer; we cannot schedule a review until we have that information, so if you can include the access point and credential information in the initial form submission, the product will be able to go on the schedule almost immediately.

Review Process: Unit Responsibilities

Once the review request has been submitted, the requesting unit is responsible for ensuring that the reviewer will have adequate access to the product for the duration of the review. This access should include all aspects of the product available to the main intended user base. For instance, if the product is a Canvas integration that has a student-accessible output and a limited-access configuration area, the student-accessible output is the aspect of the product the Web Accessibility team needs to test.

The requesting unit is also responsible for establishing and maintaining communication with the vendor for the purpose of passing along review documentation and eliciting a vendor response to the documentation in the form of a remediation timeline and plan. The Web Accessibility team is happy to answer questions from the vendor and to meet with the vendor and the requesting unit to discuss the review but will not initiate contact with the vendor for these purposes.

Review Deliverables and Next Steps

When the Web Accessibility team has completed the product review, they will create a set of three documents and hand these over to the requesting unit. These documents include Excel and Google Sheets versions of the WCAG Checklist document and a Word Document Summary of the review. The requesting unit should share these documents with the vendor and establish a timeline for the vendor response (ideally within three months of the review’s completion).

If the vendor has questions about the review, please contact the Web Accessibility team via the established review support ticket so we can answer them via email or a meeting. Once the vendor does respond with a remediation timeline and plan in which they commit to remediate most or all the identified issues, the review support ticket can be closed and a tentative date for the next review can be added to the Product Review schedule.

If a subsequent review finds the vendor does not agree to remediate most or all identified issues, the requesting unit must develop an alternative accommodation plan. If the vendor refuses to fix the accessibility bugs, we strongly recommend that units find a new vendor rather than renewing the relationship with the uncooperative vendor.


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