ICT procurers need to understand accessibility

With sharpened EU regulations, accessibility requirements are increased for public sector bodies to make their digital interfaces accessible for people with disabilities. But neither suppliers nor procurers have sufficient knowledge on the topic.

Susanna Laurin, Chief Research & Innovation Officer at Funka sees a potential coming procurement crisis and urges both the Swedish government and The National Agency for Public Procurement to act.

The European Web Accessibility Directive, which was introduced on September 23, 2018, states that public sector websites, intranets, documents and apps must comply with technical requirements that allow everyone to use them, regardless of their ability.

There is a grace period for different interfaces, starting with websites published after the directive entered into force which must comply with the regulationson September 23, 2019. For websites published before the regulation, the deadline is September 23, 2020.

Susanna Laurin is Chief Research & Innovation Officer at the consulting company Funka, which is specialized in digital accessibility.

She also leads the group of experts who help the European Commission and the Member States with recommendations on the monitoring methodoly and supervisory work of the directive.

Susanna Laurin sees a serious lack of knowledge in digital accessibility by both procurers and suppliers.

One explanation for the shortcomings is that only half of the Nordic universities offer courses in web accessibility. In addition, only 25 percent of the courses are compulsory.

This is shown in a new study that Funka has done together with the profesional association IAAP and a group of Nordic universities in a research project funded by Nordplus.

Susanna Laurin warns that the lack of knowledge leads to poorer procurements.

- Both the suppliers and the procurers have difficulties understanding and meeting the requirements. There is a big risk that public sector bodies are forced to correct errors after delivery, which is both inefficient and expensive, she says.

She calls on the government to offer training and support.

- So far, I have not seen any concrete actions to solve this problem, neither from the Minister of Digitalization Anders Ygeman nor from Minister of Education Anna Ekström. It is time that they begin to demand that the universities take their responsibility for the future developers and designers to gain their knowledge during their studies and thus can be prepared for the new demands of the market.

She also calls for a commitment from The National Agency for Public Procurement, regarding guidelines and support.

- The responsibility for these issues is spread across several authorities. The agency for Digital Government, DIGG, is responsible for monitoring and training, but the Procurement Agency should be able to provide support for the procurers as such. None of them have so far been particularly visible in this arena, says Susanna Laurin

Pending support from the authorities, procurers who need guidance may settle for the support of in the European standard EN301549 v. 2.1.2.

- In annex B, there is a model of how the standard can be used in procurement, says Susanna Laurin.

This interview was made by Olof Axelsson and published in Swedish in Upphandling 24.

ICT procurers need to understand accessibility (in swedish)

It has been translated by IAAP and is published in English courtesy of Upphandling 24.

About the study