Accessibility Policy for Library Electronic Resources
Montana State University (MSU) Library is committed to ensuring the electronic resources1we purchase or subscribe to from third-party providers (i.e, Elsevier, Springer Nature, Taylor & Francis, EBSCO, etc.) are accessible to everyone. We make good faith efforts to understand if the resources we are procuring comply with theAmericans with Disabilities Act (ADA)andSection 508of theRehabilitation Act of 1973. In addition to ourawareness of federal requirements, MSU Library strives to comply with the Montana State University web accessibility policy,and the legal requirements of the state of Montana as set forth in the technology access clause for the blind or visually impaired (Section 18-5-603, Montana Code Annotated). Through these efforts, we serve as advocates for the remediation, development, and maintenance of accessible content byencouraging third-party providers to meet current accessibility standards.
Licensing Procedures & Requirements
When beginning the process of procuring a new electronic resource, MSU Library collects accessibility documentation, incorporates accessibility language into all contracts and licenses, and requires a point-of-contact for accessibility-related questions.
When entering into an agreement with a third-party provider, MSU Library requires that a clause about accessibility is included in the license agreement. If the third-party has an existing accessibility clause that is inadequate, or they do not have one at all, MSU Library will ask them to insert the following language into the agreement:
Licensor shall comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), by supporting assistive software or devices such as large print interfaces, text-to-speech output, voice-activated input, refreshable braille displays, and alternate keyboard or pointer interfaces in a manner consistent with the Web Accessibility Initiative Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 AA.Licensor shall ensure that product maintenance and upgrades are implemented in a manner that does not compromise product accessibility. Licensor shall provide to Licensee a current, accurate completed Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) to demonstrate compliance with accessibility standards.If the product does not comply, the Licensor shall adapt the Licensed Materials in a timely manner and at no cost to the Licensee in order to comply with applicable law. Nothing in this Agreement shall limit the Licensee or any end user from making lawful, non-infringing uses to facilitate access to the Licensed Materials by users who have disabilities. For the avoidance of doubt, the Licensor authorizes such uses2. Additionally, licensor acknowledges that Montana state funds may not be expended for the purchase of information technology equipment and software for use by employees, program participants, or members of the public unless it provides blind or visually impaired individuals with access, including interactive use of the equipment and services, that is equivalent to that provided to individuals who are not blind or visually impaired.Licensor further agrees to indemnify and hold harmless Licensee from any claims arising out of its failure to comply with the requirements of this section. Failure to comply with these requirements shall constitute a material breach of this agreement and shall be grounds for termination of this agreement by the Licensee3.
If an agreement were up for renewal and this language, or any acceptable accessibility language did not already exist, the Library would request this language be added before the renewal was signed.
Licensing an Inaccessible Product
Occasionally, but fortunately not often, licensing an inaccessible product does happen. There are very specialized resourcesthat subsets of our users may request the Library to purchase or subscribe to in order to advance their research that might not meet accessibility standards. While we would follow the procurement procedures above, we would propose a clause in the license agreement that acknowledges this and would allow the Library or the end user to modify the resource only for the purpose of making it accessible:
Licensor acknowledges that at the time of this agreement, [name of product] does not support assistive technologies and may be in breach of the Americans with Disabilities Act(ADA) andSection 508of theRehabilitation Act of 1973. If requested by the Licensee, the Licensor shall adapt the Licensed Materials in a timely manner and at no cost to the Licensee in order to comply with applicable law. However, if the Licensee is unable to meet this request, nothing in this agreement shall limit the Licensee or any end user from making lawful, non-infringing uses to facilitate access to the Licensed Materials by users who have disabilities. For the avoidance of doubt, the Licensor authorizes such uses.Additionally, licensor acknowledges that Montana state funds may not be expended for the purchase of information technology equipment and software for use by employees, program participants, or members of the public unless it provides blind or visually impaired individuals with access, including interactive use of the equipment and services, that is equivalent to that provided to individuals who are not blind or visually impaired. Licensor further agrees to indemnify and hold harmless Licensee from any claims arising out of its failure to comply with the requirements of this section. Failure to comply with these requirements shall constitute a material breach of this agreement and shall be grounds for termination of this agreement by the Licensee.
In addition, we would reach out to the user or users who requested access to inform them that the resources may not be compatible with assistive technologies before we procured the resource to ensure they will be able to use it. Lastly, if the Library determines that the inaccessible product will be widely used, we may conduct an audit or evaluation following the procedure below. Depending on the outcome of an internal evaluation, we may not move forward with procurement or to limit access to the user who requested the resource.
Voluntary Product Accessibility Template
As stated in the license clause, we ask all third-party resource providers for a completed Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) that we file alongside the fully executed license agreement.
Other Accessibility Evaluations
While the VPAT is MSU Library’s preferred documentation, we may consider accepting an accessibility evaluation of a product that was performed by an accessibility consultant or a known accessibility expert. The Library would determine the validity of such an evaluation before it was accepted in place of a VPAT.
Whether or not they are fully compliant with WCAG 2.1 AA guidelines, resource providers are asked to provide MSU Library with a point-of-contact should they need to request alternate formats of materials or report a complaint related to the accessibility of their content.
Auditing & Evaluating Resources
While MSU Library trusts that external resource providers are doing their best to meet current accessibility standards, sometimes a vendor does not have a VPAT and isn’t willing to complete one. This means we may conduct a high-level audit of a resource we are considering procuring to assess if the resource complies with basic WCAG 2.1 AA success criteria. This audit will be conducted using WAVE and human-resources:
- Page title
- Image text alternatives ("alt text") (pictures, illustrations, charts, etc.)
- Contrast ratio ("color contrast")
- Resize Text
- Keyboard access and visual focus
- Forms, labels, and errors (including Search fields)
- Moving, Flashing, or Blinking Content
- Multimedia (video, audio) alternatives
- Basic Structure Check
Depending on the outcome of this evaluation, we may not move forward with a procurement unless the Library is able to reach an agreement with the vendor or the vendor is willing to improve the accessibility of their site before we finalize any agreement.
Other Accessibility Initiatives at MSU Library
The MSU Library is committed to providing equal access to library collections, services, and facilities for all library users. We are continually improving the user experience for everyone, and applying relevant accessibility standards in compliance with the Montana State University Web Accessibility Policy. For library collections that are not accessible, we are committed to providing reasonable accommodations and timely access to users with disabilities. For assistance, please submit an accessibility request for library material.
Additionally, MSU Library participates in HathiTrust’s Accessible Text Request Service. As such, a designated proxy from MSU Library may request a digital copy of an in-copyright text on behalf of users with visual impairments.
Profession-Wide Initiatives Advancing the Accessibility of Electronic Resources
MSU Library acknowledges and fully supports the work that is being done in the Library profession to promote and encourage accessibility compliance among library third party providers. We often utilize the work of the Library Accessibility Alliance, a partnership between the Big Ten Academic Alliance and Association of Southeastern Research Libraries, to perform accessibility evaluations for select third-party electronic resources. The Houston Community College Libraries also maintains a list of VPATs.
1 Online journal platforms, databases, or other information resources that the Library provides electronically
3 Standard licensing clause used by MSU Legal Counsel in campus procurements
Last Updated By: Hannah McKelvey and Jacqueline Frank, 07-27-2023