4.4 Procurement policies

Public procurement has long been used by many governments to achieve social inclusion goals.126 National public procurement policy has the potential to positively influence the availability, affordability and quality of AT and other accessible ICTs such as Braille, DAISY books and accessible websites.

Public procurement provides educational and school authorities with a means to incorporate accessibility requirements at the earliest stages of developing a school IT infrastructure. This also has an impact on the wider accessible ICT eco-system by creating a demand, and therefore a capacity within the market, to develop, produce and maintain accessible ICTs. The greater the demand, the lower the end cost is likely to be. Public procurement policy can, therefore, act as a means to promote the development and availability of accessible ICTs.

Educational authorities could, for example, include accessibility as a criterion in the purchase of all educational software, such as teaching programs or content management systems. This would help ensure that all users, including persons with disabilities, would be able to use and access content from the start, avoiding costly provision of specialized learning resources for these students at a later date.

Accessible ICT procurement toolkits have been developed in a number of countries to systematically promote the procurement of accessible ICTs. A procurement toolkit typically provides guidance in the development and assessment of tenders issued by public bodies for ICTs such as websites or computers. Policy-makers could consider the development of a public procurement toolkit to complement a national policy on the provision of accessible ICTs in connected schools. In this way, any expenditure on ICTs for schools will ensure that the stock of school ICT hardware and software will become more accessible over time. While this will promote the accessibility of the mainstream ICT equipment used in schools, it will also be necessary to make a separate investment in specialized solutions and assistive technology for children with disabilities.

For more on the role of public procurement in fostering accessible ICTs see the ITU/G3ict e-Accessibility Toolkit.

126Waddell, Cynthia. Meeting information and communications technology access and service needs for people with disabilities: Major issues for development and implementation of successful policies and strategies. Available at http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/sis/PwDs/Seminars/Zambia/Documents/Presentations/009-Waddell%20Cynthia-Background%20paper.pdf Where governments insist on procuring only accessible ICTs, manufacturers respond by producing only accessible ICTs. It is simply too expensive for manufacturers to produce two lines, one for the government and another for the public. Public procurement requirements in countries that are major producers of ICTs has resulted in more accessible features being included in mainstream ICTs.