Buying accessible ICT products
NSW Government agencies must buy digital products that are designed to provide equal access of use for all their intended users, regardless of physical, cognitive or sensory abilities.
Many agencies already think about the requirements of price, support and security when procuring products and services. Accessibility and usability requirements are just as important.
Buying products or services that do not meet the needs of your staff and customers limits their productivity and potential. Adding accessibility requirements into the procurement process help ensure that you buy accessible products or services. This enables you to:
- attract the best possible talent from the widest possible field
- retain staff as their abilities change with age, illness or accident
- engage with the broadest range of the NSW customers we all serve
Understanding why accessibility requirements are important
Before we jump into the how, let's take a closer look at why.
Staff and customer diversity is the norm not the exception. We want to make sure we buy products and services that are fit purpose and do not unwittingly exclude people. Including accessibility requirements upfront helps to ensure the products are accessible and usable by all.
Ensuring we buy accessible products and services also helps us meet our responsibilities. People with disability have a right to obtain goods and use services and facilities in the same way as people without a disability.
Embedding accessibility requirements in the procurement process also helps us achieve our strategic priorities, including the Premier's Priority to build a world-class public service.
Buying products and services without considering accessibility can create accessibility issues down the track. This impacts budgets, schedules and delivery confidence, and affects customer experience.
How do I buy digital products that meet requirements?
In NSW Government we procure accessible products and services using the process outlined by buy.NSW for Government accessibility standards for ICT. This is done with reference to the Australian Standard for accessibility requirements for ICT products and services (AS EN301549).
To include accessibility in any procurement process, you need to:
- clarify your business requirements based on the needs of your users.
- ask vendors to demonstrate their product’s accessibility based on your requirements.
- assess the evidence and decide whether the product meets your requirements.
The Core& and MICTA/ICTA contracts under the ICT Purchasing Framework provide an option to include the relevant parts of AS EN 301 549 in your standard procurement processes and protocols.
Step 1. Clarify your business requirements
All customers and users share common needs, whatever our diverse abilities and barriers. You should consult with an inclusive cohort for research to understand your users’ needs and how your product can meet them, before you go to tender or quote.
AS EN 301 549 provides a framework to assess whether a product or service meets functional customer needs through:
- functional performance statements (FPS) - aspects of the standard that a product may meet, e.g. whether a product is useable without vision.
- functional performance requirements - criteria you can test to demonstrate whether the product meets each statement.
Early on in the procurement process, you should identify which FPS in the current version of AS EN 301 549 are relevant to your users. Using AS EN 301 549 to identify the relevant accessibility requirements helps to ensure your product meets WCAG standards. You can use a spreadsheet, table or other template to identify and track the relevant FPS and include them in your request for quote or tender.
In your tracking document, you should give each FPS a weighting. The weighting you give to each FPS depends on how crucial it is to your customers’ use of the product. If the FPS is essential for users to engage with the product on an equal basis, you should prioritise that FPS. If it is incidental, then meeting that FPS a lower priority.You should specify the weighting of each FPS so vendors can understand what is most important.
When you have identified the relevant functional performance standards, you should communicate these business requirements clearly to potential vendors when you approach the market.
Step 2. Request proof from vendors
Once you have communicated your accessibility requirements to vendors, you should ask them to supply verifiable evidence that their products meet the relevant FPS. This is crucial in assessing and comparing vendors as well as ensuring the product is fit for purpose.
Types of evidence
Vendors should demonstrate compliance through both an Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR) and a practical demonstration.
There are several kinds of ACRs that vendors could supply, including:
- The Information Technology Industry Council's Voluntary Product Accessibility Template.
- Buy NSW’s sample accessibility conformance document DOCX, 104.92 KB.
- An independent accessibility audit conducted by an accessibility professional or specialist organisation.
You can use product ACRs to compare products and held narrow down your list of potential suppliers. You can ask vendors to demonstrate compliance in two or more rounds, using the ACRs to evaluate all vendors in the first instance and a practical demonstration to help evaluate the final few candidates.
Step 3. Assess and compare products against the requirements
You should use the evidence provided by the vendors to assess and compare the products. Generally you should consider choosing a more accessible product over a less accessible one, but the way you make that assessment will be influenced by the weighting you gave each FPS. Choose a shortlist of products based on whether or not they meet the FPS you identified as relevant, especially those you rated as essential.
On request, vendors must also be able to practically demonstrate that the product delivers the business requirements. Use the practical demonstration to help you choose from your shortlist. Including users with diverse access needs in the practical demonstration will give you valuable insights into the usability of the product.
If vendors can’t meet the requirements, you can ask them to provide a plan or roadmap to reach compliance in the future. You should also make sure the product allows for users to report accessibility issues to the vendor, and that the vendor will be willing to address them.
Contact an accessibility specialist
Need advice and guidance?
Incorporating accessibility in your procurement process can be complex and may require technical knowledge.
The Accessibility NSW team can help you understand this process or help you find an accessibility specialist. If you’d like assistance, reach out to email@example.com.
Want to learn more about inclusive design concepts and theory and how to put them in to practice?
Check out Diverse abilities and barriers to gain an understanding of what diverse needs and barriers are and Accessibility resources to explore the knowledge, tools, and frameworks to design more inclusively.
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