Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main purposes of the EN 301 549 and this Toolkit?

EN 301 549 "Accessibility requirements suitable for public procurement of ICT products and services in Europe" specifies the Functional Accessibility Requirements applicable to ICT products and services. It contains a description of the test procedures and evaluation methodology for each accessibility requirement. The requirements are suitable for use in public procurement within Europe.

EN 301 549 may also be useful for other purposes such as procurement in the private sector, technical reference in the development of new ICT products and services, etc.

The Accessible ICT Procurement Toolkit is based on EN 301 549. This Toolkit enables procurers to easily identify the relevant accessibility requirements from EN 301 549 and advises on how best to use them in the procurement of ICT products and services. The Toolkit also assists manufacturers and developers to use the accessibility requirements in their ICT design, development and quality control procedures.

Is the EN 301 549 a voluntary or legislative binding document?

EN 301 549 "Accessibility requirements suitable for public procurement of ICT products and services in Europe" is a voluntary standard. It contains no legally binding obligations for public procuring bodies or other public or private persons or entities.

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. 

What is the key difference between the EN 301 549 and the US 508 section?

EN 301 549 "Accessibility requirements suitable for public procurement of ICT products and services in Europe" was developed to be closely harmonised with the updated guidelines contained in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act 1973 in the USA. Section 508 requires Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities.

In contrast with Section 508 of the American with Disabilities Act in the USA, the use of EN 301 549 remains strictly voluntary.

How can this Toolkit be used at national level?

EN 301 549 may be referenced in policy or legislation by any supranational, national or regional authority wishing to use internationally harmonised technical specifications on the accessibility of ICTs for persons with disabilities. For example, it is suitable for use as the technical specification related to the essential requirements contained in legislation that requires ICTs to be accessible for persons with disabilities. 

Therefore, procuring bodies across Europe are encouraged to use the harmonised accessibility requirements contained in EN 301 549 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 product 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.

What are the implications of the new public procurement directive?

The final proposal for a new public procurement directive implies that where the product or service to be procured is intended to be used by a person, the mandatory requirements (if any) must include accessibility requirements. Article 40, point 1, of the proposal contains the following provision:

"For all procurement the subject of which is intended for use by persons, whether general public or staff of the contracting authority, those technical specifications shall, except in duly justified cases, be drawn up so as to take into account accessibility criteria for people with disabilities or design for all users”.

It is expected that "duly justified cases" will be defined differently in the Member States and will be gradually clarified by court decisions.

"Where mandatory accessibility standards are adopted by a legislative act of the Union, technical specifications shall, as far as accessibility criteria are concerned, be defined by reference thereto."

This paragraph refers to the European Disability Act, currently under preparation, which might contain references to EN 301 549 and ISO/IEC 40500.

As a procurer, what can I do with this Toolkit?

Procuring bodies can use the Accessible ICT Procurement Toolkit to have a global perspective on how to incorporate accessibility criteria in different stages of public procurement.

One part of the toolkit is the Accessibility Requirements Generator, where the procurer can:

  • choose the relevant accessibility requirements for an ICT product or service;
  • get the list of customised accessibility requirements and solicitation language for that ICT product or service;
  • use the advice provided on mandatory and/or award requirements as well as on choosing and using an attestation.

What other professionals can benefit from this Toolkit?

Apart from procurers, the Toolkit can be useful for other professionals, such as:

  • Suppliers: Manufacturers, service providers, software companies and system integrators need to be aware of and understand the harmonised accessibility requirements specified in EN 301 549. They need to respond accurately to request for these requirements in Call for Tenders and understand what they are expected to do to ensure that the products and services they supply meet the accessibility requirements for public procurement in the European Union.
  • Accessibility experts: Accessibility experts need to provide detailed advice to clients in the private and public sector on how best to meet each of the accessibility requirements.
  • Policy makers: Policy makers need to consider the use of harmonised accessibility requirements, as defined in EN 301 549 in policies and legislation related to public procurement as well as in more general disability and anti-discrimination legislation.   

What is the difference between Functional Accessibility Requirements and Functional Performance Statements?

The Functional Performance Statements in EN 301 549, clause 4, identify a set of user accessibility needs for people who have various ability impairments (e.g. low vision, limited manipulation or strength). The user accessibility needs relate to people wishing to locate, identify, and operate ICT functions, and access the information provided. The Functional Performance Statements are designed to be used as an instrument to establish how more or less accessible an ICT product or service is.

The Functional Accessibility Requirements in EN 301 549 clause 5-13 are testable requirements, i.e. they contain the word "shall" and can be verified whether they are met or not. They are functional in the sense that they do not prescribe a specific technical solution.

A picture of which of the requirements in the EN have been met is significant evidence to demonstrate how the Functional Performance Statements have been satisfied. ICT that meets the requirements of clauses 5 to 13 is deemed to be consistent with the user accessibility needs identified by the Functional Performance Statements. There may however be many other things that can be done to enhance the accessibility of ICT, even though those things cannot be captured as universal, testable requirements with predictable outcomes.

Can the accessibility requirements from the EN 301 549 be used as Technical Specification?

Yes! The “Functional Accessibility Requirements” defined in clauses 5-13 in EN 301 549 are ideal for use in the procurement of “off-the-shelf” products such as a monitor, printer, laptop or computer.

Where the procuring body knows at the time of writing the Call for Tenders the type of technology it wishes to procure it may choose one of pre-packaged sets of requirements from the list provided in the section on Commonly Procured ICTs in the Accessibility Requirements Generator.

Where a pre-packaged set of requirements are not available or appropriate, the procuring authority may pick and choose the relevant Functional Accessibility Requirements using the Accessibility Requirements Generator.

See the section on Follow the Procurement Stages for more advice on using the accessibility requirements as part of the Technical Specification.

Can accessibility requirements from the EN 301 549 be used as Award Criteria?

Yes! The “Functional Accessibility Requirements” defined in clauses 5-13 in EN 301 549 are ideal for use as Award Criteria in the procurement of ICT products and services.

See the section on Follow the Procurement Stages for more advice on using the accessibility requirements as part of the Award Criteria.

How can a set of accessibility requirements for a product or service be generated?

The Accessibility Requirements Generator is the tool to generate a set of accessibility requirements for a specific ICT product or service.

The experts behind this Toolkit have generated a set of predefined ICT products and services as preliminary examples to take into account, those are available in the main page of this Toolkit.

Moreover, any user can create a set of accessibility requirements using Accessibility Requirements Generator, that allow the selection of the applicable accessibility requirements to any desired ICT product or service. The user only has to name the set of requirements and tick the boxes of the applicable requirements.

What templates or outputs can be got from the Toolkit?

The Toolkit provides two basic templates:

  • The solicitation language: ready to “copy and paste” text, that can be incorporated in a Call for Tenders.
  • The list of accessibility requirements: an automatically generated table including the applicable accessibility requirement for a given ICT product or service.

The Toolkit provides advice on how to use the requirements and a set of templates illustrating the different attestations that can be used to ask for evidence of compliance.

Use the Accessibility Requirements Generator to quickly define the Functional Performance Statements or Functional Accessibility Requirements for use in your procurement as either Technical Specifications or as Award Criteria.

How can other accessibility requirements exceeding the EN 301 549 contents be included in a Call for Tenders?

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).

A very clear example in the web products can be the incorporation of AAA Level as Award Criteria.

How can ICT accessibility be included in SLAs?

The definition of accessibility in EN 301 549 implies that accessibility is a measurable characteristic, which enables the procuring body to follow up that the delivered product or service fulfils specified accessibility requirements during the course of the contract, e.g. by including accessibility in a Service Level Agreement.

Examples of possible measurements are:

  • Successful task completion: 95 % probability that at least a defined percentage of the target population can complete a specified task correctly.
  • Successful design solution: 95 % probability that at least a defined percentage of the target population does not encounter problems with a specific design solution.

What kind of proofs of compliance can be used to ensure accessibility?

Contracting authorities have a wide range of different levels and types of evidence to request as proof of compliance. The lowest level, with the lowest degree of credibility, is a "yes" answer to the question "Does your product comply to requirement X?". Requiring an attestation gives however higher credibility. For attestations, the ambition levels range from a first party declaration ("we certify that ...") to an accredited third party certification (an external independent party, inspected by an authority, certifies that ...).  

Read more in Conformity assessment and attestations.