Government ICT Purchasing and Accessibility
The topic of Government ICT purchasing may seem far removed from the interests of people with disabilities and, as a consequence, its significance as a vehicle for equality for people with disabilities is not widely recognised. The connection between Government ICT purchasing and equality hinges on the benefits that the widespread availability of affordable and accessible information and communication technologies (ICTs) provide to people with disabilities. Accessible ICTs are defined in this paper as: information and communications technologies (ICTs) that enable people with disabilities to use functions provided by computer hardware and software on an equal basis with others (EU, 2011a). In general, increasing the availability of accessible ICTs is considered a positive step in removing barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating equitably in society (Waddell, 2009). Government purchasing, usually called public procurement, refers to the financial processes that governments engage in to purchase goods and services, mainly from the private sector, to enable it to carry out its various functions (McCrudden, 2007, pp. 2-3). The primary aim for including accessibility criteria in ICT public procurement is to provide more equitable access to ICT office equipment such as phones and computer systems for public servants with disabilities. However, it can have flow-on effects for increased ICT accessibility to the broader community. For the most part, the purchase of accessible ICT products is still not an explicit requirement for government instrumentalities at the federal or state level in Australia. As a consequence, there is a clear need for a consumer-oriented plan to work with governments to ensure that accessibility requirements in ICT government purchasing is placed firmly on the agenda. The paper reports on a study conducted by the authors that explores the connection between public procurement of accessible ICTs and improving outcomes for people with disabilities. By investigating the variety of approaches to ICT accessibility throughout the OECD the report makes recommendations that are designed to increase the availability of accessible ICTs in Australia through public procurement. In addition to the final report, an Advocacy Toolkit was provided for use by disability organisations in their advocacy work.