One of the key first steps to improving your organisation’s accessibility is to make a change to your procurement process so that all future digital systems you buy have accessibility built in and assessed, as well as having the requirements clearly documented in a contract. This ensures that you are not “buying in to problems” with accessibility and ensures that we are reinforcing a business incentive for inclusive design with suppliers to the public sector.
This will help your organisation in the long term as it will eventually ensure that all your contracts have clear accessibility requirements in them and there will be no ambiguity between you and your supplier.
When it comes to specifying requirements for procurement, there are a number of items we believe should be mentioned and suppliers should have answers for.
Equality Act in Procurement – You should mention all relevant legislation when procuring digital services. For accessibility concerns you should always mention the Equality Act and that you as an organisation and the products you procure must not discriminate against individuals.
Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations in Procurement – You need to mention the new regulations, particularly to demonstrate to suppliers that there are new specific legal requirements that you need to meet and this translates to technical and compliance requirements that you expect to be met by any products or services you purchase.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines in Procurement – When you ask about accessibility as part of procurement, you should specifically ask for suppliers to demonstrate with proof that their web platform meets WCAG 2.1 AA compliance and they will be continuing to ensure they meet this compliance with any future updates. You will want this compliance point to be included into a contract.
EN 301 549 European Standard in Procurement – The standard EN 301 549 specifies the Functional Accessibility Requirements applicable to ICT products and services, in a form that is suitable for use in public procurement within Europe. For web products and any other digital systems we suggest mentioning EN 301 549. This standard aligns with WCAG for web systems but also covers other digital products. You should also be asking suppliers to prove how they have audited their product against accessibility standards including WCAG and EN 301 549.
ISO Standards to know about
ISO 13066 Interoperability of Assistive Technologies Standard in Procurement – This ISO standard focuses on the interoperability of assistive technologies. It is important to confirm that any digital systems you are procuring work correctly with assistive technologies.
ISO 9241-210:2019 Ergonomics of Human-system interaction (where applicable) – This ISO standard provides requirements and recommendations for human-centred design principles and activities throughout the life cycle of computer-based interactive systems, and is concerned with ways in which both hardware and software components of interactive systems can enhance human/system interaction. This ISO standard will not always be necessary to request but may be of use to discuss with suppliers if your digital system also has a hardware element.
ISO 30071-1:2019 Information technology: Development of user interface accessibility – This ISO gives guidelines for building and maintaining ICT systems (including products and services) that are accessible to diverse users (including users with disabilities and older people).
The specific wording we include as part of a procurement is in the Procurement Wording TEMPLATE. In addition to the basic wording we have an Accessible Procurement Cheat Sheet that covers the basics here and some good reference questions for suppliers.
We also have the following wording that we feel should be included into contracts going forwards:
‘The Supplier will provide a system (and the tools to create accessible content on their system) that complies with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 AA standard in line with our requirements under the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018 and the Equality Act 2010’
The National Disability Authority procurement toolkit provides further advice that you may want to use when ensuring accessibility in your future procurements.