Accessibility is not merely a compliance issue. It is not just about conforming with technical guidelines or legal requirements. By focusing on accessibility an organisation can achieve a universally consistent quality of service for its customers. A high level of service quality should be the driving principle and motivation, not compliance.
Step by step guide
The guide, called ‘Buy IT!’, has been produced by the US-based Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT). This online resource is meant to help US based employers purchase effective accessible technology through their procurement processes.
The introduction to Buy IT! states that whether considering software, hardware or services, a successful accessible ICT purchasing strategy means: “doing vendor research, specifying your requirements, and validating the accessibility of your product choices prior to accepting and implementing them. Most importantly, it means approaching ICT procurement with an eye toward accessibility and usability from the very beginning.”
A detailed step-by-step plan for employers and purchasing staff needs to be set out, explaining how to work towards an accessible procurement programme in three sections: planning, solicitation and ‘post-award’.
- Approaching ICT procurement with an eye toward accessibility and usability from the very beginning.
- Gain executive support for accessible procurement and what to look for when researching vendors
- Write an accessibility-focused procurement solicitation, including requesting accessibility information from vendors and contractors (you may wish to refer to the VPATs mechanism here)
- Test and validate vendor’s accessibility claims
The ‘planning’ section explores how employers can gain executive support for accessible procurement and what to look for when researching vendors. ‘Solicitation’ gives a thorough grounding in writing an accessibility-focused procurement solicitation, including requesting accessibility information from vendors and contractors, and ensuring that the solicitation documents are fully accessible. As the guide points out, this last step “is especially useful for attracting vendors that may employ people with disabilities who may not otherwise be able to access your solicitation.”
The final section, ‘post-award’, gives a detailed breakdown of steps to take when employers are ready to make a contract award. The guide emphasises the importance of ‘testing and validation’ here, to avoid potentially difficult scenarios in the next stage of the process: “All too often, customers take vendors at their word when they say a product is accessible, and then accept it without testing the product and validating the claim,” the guide reads.
The key to avoiding this situation is ‘acceptance testing’, claims the guide, which helps determine whether a procured product meets the necessary criteria drawn up in the sales contract. The guide then goes on to outline models to test for ICT accessibility.
You can learn more about the Buy IT! resource for purchasing accessible technology at the PEAT website: http://www.peatworks.org/buy-IT
- Learning about the European Standard on accessibility requirements for public procurement of ICT products and services
- EN 301549 V1.1.1 (2014-02) European Standard Accessibility requirements suitable for public procurement of ICT products and services in Europe (PDF)
- Principles of accessible procurement