Accessible Technology Procurement and Development Policy


Harvard University, acting through Harvard University Information Technology (HUIT) and its School-level Chief Information Officers (the “CIOs”), is committed to supporting an information technology (IT) environment that enables the broadest possible community participation in Harvard’s education and research missions. In accord with this commitment, and with the knowledge that accessible digital content generally enhances usability for everyone, HUIT and the CIOs seek to procure and deploy digital tools and content designed and developed to be accessible to people with disabilities, including those who use assistive technologies. In doing so, HUIT and the CIOs are guided by the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, Level AA standards for IT accessibility.


For existing websites and applications, each applicable HUIT or School-level IT department will incorporate accessibility into its development roadmap, whenever applications are scheduled for a minor or major upgrade. Developers and content creators will unit test their code and/or content for accessibility. In addition, accessibility testing should occur as part of the test environment to stage environment deployment process. Any accessibility issues identified should be remediated before the application can move to production.

New applications, whether developed in house or purchased from a vendor, should conform to WCAG 2.1, Level AA guidelines. Vendor contracts for purchases of information technology1 should include the Accessibility Rider (OGC Model Documents webpage). [Note: Harvard Key is required to download the ‘Harvard Digital Accessibility Requirements: Contract Rider’ Word document.]

It is expected that any accessibility issues identified through testing or end user feedback ordinarily will be fixed within 12 months.

Temporary Exception Process

Harvard IT clients may request temporary exceptions from the above-stated policy (“Exception Requests”). Each School CIO shall adopt, implement, and administer a review process for Exception Requests relating to technologies made available exclusively to that School CIO’s IT clients. HUIT shall adopt, implement, and administer a similar process for review of all other Exception Requests, including those made (a) by HUIT clients or (b) in relation to technologies acquired/developed for rollout at more than one School.

Each such Exception Request process shall incorporate the following elements:

  1. The client completes and submits a Temporary Exception Process form (“TEP Form”) to a First-Level Reviewer. For purposes of this policy, a “First-Level Reviewer” is, in the case of HUIT, the applicable HUIT Managing Director, or, in the case of a School, an IT manager designated by the School CIO to review TEP Forms and recommend appropriate action.
  2. The First-Level Reviewer gathers additional information as needed, formulates a recommendation whether to grant or deny the exception, and presents that recommendation to the CIO.
  3. The CIO or his/her designee decides whether to accept the recommendation.
  4. HUIT or the School, as applicable, retains documentation of TEP Forms and the resulting recommendations and decisions for periodic review.

On an annual basis each School CIO will provide a report to the University CIO, identifying the number of exceptions granted and the rationale for each exception.

[1] For these purposes, “information technology” includes software; server-based, personal computer, mobile device, and web-based applications; website design, development, hosting, maintenance, and archiving services; cloud-based applications and information processing or storage services; digital hardware interfaces; and digital database configurations and interfaces.