Motivators: Legal, social, economic

This section outlines the 3 main motivations why procurers should consider accessibility requirements in the procurement of ICT. These reasons are mainly: legal obligations, social factors and business benefits.

This section is not an exhaustive treatment of public procurers’ legal obligations. Neither does use of this Procurement Toolkit ensure compliance with any national or EU level legislation. Procurers are encouraged to check their national procurement and ICT regulations as well as equality and anti-discrimination legislation to establish the specific legal and policy requirements for the procurements of accessible ICT in their own country.

Legal motivators

Equitable access to ICT in order to participate fully in society is a fundamental human right. For persons with disabilities, this human right is protected within international human rights law by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). 

While the UN CRPD may not be directly relevant to the day to day activities of procurers, it has been described here to provide a context to European and national law and policy in the field of ICT accessibility.

The UN CRPD contains a number of specific obligations on accessible ICT that State Parties to the Convention are obliged to implement [1]. These include:

  • The Convention holds the accessibility of ICTs to be a human right. It is equally important as access to the built environment and transportation in enabling people with disabilities to participate fully in society (Article 9).
  • Accessibility is one of eight guiding principles contained in the Convention (Article 3).
  • The Convention holds equitable access to ICT for persons as an enabler of other human rights such as persons right to:
    • an education (Article 24),
    • employment (Article 27),
    • participation in political life (Article 29),
    • access to information and freedom of expression (Article 21),
    • access to entertainment and culture (Article 30). 
  • Public authorities are required to ensure that all public policies and programmes protect these rights (Article 4).

See the e-Accessibility Toolkit for Policy Makers for a further description of the ICT accessibility dispositions contained in the Convention.

Accessible ICT policies and regulation within the European Union

Equitable access to ICT for all has been a policy priority within the EU and is emphasised in key policy documents such as:

Digital Agenda is Europe’s new action plan for promoting economic growth and inclusion. It contains a number of action lines on accessibility including that new legislation developed under the DAE will abide by the terms of the UN CRPD.

The European Disability Strategy proposes the development of a specific “European Accessibility Act” to be commenced by end 2012 and which would involve developing “specific standards for particular sectors to substantially improve the proper functioning of the internal market for accessible products and services” [2].

The Public Procurement Directive establishes that "Whenever possible the technical specifications should be defined so as to take into account accessibility criteria for people with disabilities". This directive has been transposed into national laws that in some cases make it compulsory for these requirements to be incorporated into public procurement documents.

Therefore, procurement officials should be aware that accessibility is an on-going area of policy development and further developments at European level are likely to contain obligations that will impact procurement rules of accessible ICT and could impact on national procurement obligations.

National procurement and equality legislation

The regulations that govern public procurement processes attempt to ensure efficient use of taxpayers’ money and to ensure value-for-money for contracting authorities, by providing a neutral tool, which, nevertheless, allows other considerations (e.g. environmental, social) to be taken into account. Accessibility is one aspect related to social considerations. 

Procurement officers should check their own national laws and policies that contain requirements related to ICT accessibility. These may be contained in:

  • equality/anti-discrimination legislation,
  • procurement rules,
  • regulations related to specific technology areas or services e.g. telecommunications regulations.

Public procurements are encouraged to use the accessibility requirements as specified by this Procurement Toolkit as appropriate to the technology being procured. This will help to ensure that the market can respond to an authoritative and harmonised set of European requirements for accessible ICTs that are internationally recognised. 

The Business case

There are many reasons why buying accessible makes good business sense. These include:

  • Increased reach; by ensuring that your ICT product, service or channel is accessible it will facilitate use by more and more customers and citizens.
  • Increased customer satisfaction; by ensuring that persons with disabilities can use ICT. But in very many instances it also improves the customer experience for a broader range of users. 
  • Increased return on investment; by ensuring that all people can use your product, service or communication channel, you will improve the return on investment on that ICT. Accessible ICTs are particularly suited to supplying a single product or channel that caters flexibly for the needs of a wide variety of users. This reduces the expense and complexity of developing and supporting a multitude of solutions.
  • Improved reputation; by being proactive in accommodating the needs of all customer or citizens is a key consideration for good customer relations. It is also closely related to an organisation’s image and corporate social responsibility efforts. 

[1] For a description of the ICT accessibility dispositions contained in the Convention see the accessibility provisions.

[2] COM (2010). “European Disability Strategy 2010-2020: A Renewed Commitment to a Barrier-Free Europe”