Thank you for your shared commitment to digital inclusion and access equality at Harvard University.
Harvard’s Digital Accessibility Policy requires all public-facing websites to comply with WCAG 2.1 AA guidelines. If you are an owner of a Harvard website or digital product requesting a Temporary Exception to the Policy, part of the exception includes creating an Equally Effective Alternate Access Plan (EEAAP). An EEAAP describes how information will be made available to individuals with disabilities until conformance with the Policy can be met.
No technology is 100% accessible, and so Digital Accessibility Services (DAS) recommends that any Harvard school, department, or unit that governs a website or digital product should develop an EEAAP for any new or existing technologies. An EEAAP is especially important when a technology contains known accessibility issues, which are often discovered by an Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR), during user testing, or when informed of by a vendor.
A Thoughtful Process
Because accessibility issues may emerge after a site or product has been deployed, it’s helpful to think of the EEAAP as a living document, subject to review and revision as circumstances change.
As a required step when requesting a temporary exception to the Harvard Digital Accessibility Policy, creating an EEAAP is by virtue a thoughtful process, which requires some measure of planning, forethought, and consideration.
To assist in this process, information and resources provided below can help with understanding and organizing your plan.
Purpose of an EEAAP
Imagine yourself immersed in work for which your skills and knowledge are well suited, and with which you have had a track-record of success.
Now imagine the technology you use for doing this work suddenly stops working. Digital features, like buttons and controls, disappear, and the text on the page becomes too small to read. Information on the screen is jumbled, and meaningful images are now missing.
If you need this technology to be productive in your job or education, or to interact and communicate with others, you will soon find yourself at a loss to continue.
In this scenario, you most likely wouldn’t classify the faulty technology as merely "inaccessible"-- you’d probably say that it simply does not work.
For some people, such matters are not hypothetical. Digital technologies routinely lack features to support being used by people with disabilities.
If technology doesn’t work for all of us, it’s on all of us to fix it, get it right, and make it work. If fixes will take time, we can take intermediate steps by creating an EEAAP.
When to create an EEAAP
An EEAAP may be appropriate in several scenarios. Create an EEAAP if:
- Your technology is in wide use, and particularly if the technology is public facing
- Your technology is required for classroom, program, or other participation
- You will distribute or employ the technology for multiple semesters or years
- You are unable to obtain accessible technology that meets your needs
- You identify a potential accessibility barrier in your current technology
Process for Creating an EEAAP
The typical steps involved in creating an EEAAP are:
- Read “What goes into an EEAAP” below, and consider your responses
- Review the EEAAP Worksheet [PDF] to think through and prepare your answers
- Complete and submit the EEAAP form
What goes into an EEAAP
The information below will help you plan, prepare, and complete the EEAAP form.
1. Information about the inaccessible technology (e.g., title, vendor, contact, audience)
- What are the potential barriers to access (e.g., inaccessible keyboard, missing ALT text, missing captions); these may be determined via:
- Technology Review Process (vendor disclosure, VPAT/ACR)
- In-house or third-party testing
- Discovery after acquisition and deployment
2. Who is likely to be affected by accessibility issues, and how?
- What is the role of the user (e.g., student, faculty/staff, administrator, public)
- How might accessibility issues impact the user (e.g., missing captions deny context to user who is deaf)
3. How will the responsible party provide alternative means of completing the task or process?
- What tasks will be required?
- What resources will be required?
4. Who is responsible for implementing the EEAAP?
- Job role and contact information for the responsible party should be readily available in the event that a user experiences a barrier to access
- The responsible party should already be familiar with, and ready to execute, the EEAAP
5. How will the vendor or technology provider correct accessibility issues in their product?
- Who will communicate the issues to the vendor?
- In what order will the vendor address the issues?
- What is the timeline for correcting the issues?
Digital Accessibility Policy Exception and EEAAP Form
Complete the EEAAP form to request a Temporary Exception and describe your alternative access plan to the Accessibility Steering Committee for approval.
Where to go with questions
Please contact Harvard’s Digital Accessibility Services (DAS) with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.