About this Toolkit
Public procurement has long been promoted by the European Commission and used by governments, to varying degrees, to achieve socio-economic or political goals in a number of ways:
- to stimulate national economic activity,
- to improve competition in certain economic sectors,
- to drive innovation in a particular area of technology,
- to achieve specific social policy goals.
There is increasing evidence to suggest the lack of accessibility requirements in public procurement in Member States is leading to different ICT solutions being developed by industry in different countries. This in turn leads to higher costs to the buyer as well as increased complexity for industry in developing solutions for different Member States.
In 2005 the European Commission sent a standardisation mandate, called Mandate 376, to the European Standardisation Bodies (CEN, CENELEC and ETSI). Mandate 376 was an instruction to assist with the harmonisation of public procurement practices in Europe by developing a standard that specifies the functional accessibility requirements for publicly procured ICT products and services. The main result of Mandate 376 is the standard EN 301 549, Accessibility requirements suitable for public procurement of ICT products and services in Europe. A second requirement of the Mandate was to develop the “Accessible ICT Procurement Toolkit” website that enables procurers to identify the appropriate requirements and means of establishing if they have been met during the procurement process.
A key motivation of Mandate 376 and the Toolkit is to harmonize the accessibility requirements specified in public procurement in Member States as to “facilitate the work of industry”, “enlarge markets”, and “provide potential buyers” of accessible ICTs with better products and services.
The purpose of this website is to help stakeholders to understand the implications of EN 301 549 in the context of public procurement.
The Accessible ICT Procurement Toolkit and the EN 301 549
The scope of the Accessible ICT Procurement Toolkit is based on the contents of EN 301 549 and related Technical Reports produced in the context of Mandate 376. Nevertheless, the Toolkit includes a wide range of support and guidance material to facilitate procurers in incorporating accessibility as a criterion in the procurement of ICT products and services.
In cases where the requirements of the EN 301 549 are found to be not sufficient, procurers may complement the accessibility requirements contained in EN 301 549 with additional requirements needed to ensure meaningful accessibility for a particular ICT product or service. This may be necessary to facilitate usage of the ICT by certain end users (e.g., people with different cognitive impairments, people with multiple disabilities) as well as in the case of non-mature technologies (for example, in real-time text or total conversation systems) or fast-evolving technologies (web or computers).
Procurers may also involve local user organisations or accessibility experts within the country to ensure the complete fulfilment of user requirements in the procurement of ICT products and services.
European and national accessibility requirements and toolkits
The Accessible ICT Procurement Toolkit enables procurers to precisely define commonly used and internationally harmonised accessibility requirements for an ICT product or service in a Call for Tenders. These accessibility requirements are taken directly from EN 301 549.
As a European standard, EN 301 549 may be referenced in policy or legislation by any supranational, national or regional authority wishing to incorporate internationally harmonised technical specifications on the accessibility of ICTs for persons with disabilities.
At the time of writing (January 2014) no EU-level legislation exists that requires Member States to use EN 301 549 in the public procurement of ICT. However should any EU directives in future define essential requirement for accessible ICTs, it is likely that EN 301 549 will be referenced as the relevant technical specifications, compliance with which will provide a presumption of conformity with the essential requirements.
Using the Accessible ICT Procurement Toolkit and EN 301 549 in conjunction with national policy and existing procurement toolkits
The effective use of clearly defined and harmonised accessibility requirements within the procurement process encourages and enables industry to develop more accessible products, more cheaply. It promotes innovation and results in a wider range of accessible technologies being available to everyone in the market place at a lower cost.
EN 301 549 is developed to be suitable as the basis for defining accessibility as a criterion in the public procurement of ICTs. Some Member States may already require or promote the use of accessibility requirements and/or a procurement toolkit. To help ensure that fragmented requirements are not used within the EU, procuring bodies are encouraged to specify the use of the accessibility requirements contained in EN 301 549 in the public procurement of all ICT products and services.
Member States wishing to use EN 301 549 may use the information and recommendations provided in the Accessible ICT Procurement Toolkit in their national procurement policies and practices.