Rasmus SHERMER is head of unit in the Centre of Excellence IT for All in the Ministry of Science Technology and Innovation in Denmark. The Centre of Excellence coordinates the efforts of the Danish government on e-accessibility.
Rasmus SHERMER responsable de service au Centre d'excellence Technologies de l'Information pour tous au Ministère de la Science, des Technologies et de l'Innovation au Danemark. Le Centre d'Excellence coordonne les efforts du gouvernement danois pour l'accessibilité numérique.
In Demark like everywhere in the world, more and more public authorities switch
their traditional paper-based information systems to digital ones. This can
be damageable if accessibility standards aren't respected. There are unfortunate
examples in Denmark showing very skilled persons with disabilities who cannot
do their job anymore after their employer switched to in-accessible digital
The centre of excellence Information Technology for All was established in May 2003 by the National IT and Telecom Agency, in order to coordinate the efforts of the Danish government in the e-accessibility area. One mission of the centre is to help public authorities in Denmark to integrate e-accessibility in the public procurement process to a larger extend.
The legislative context in Denmark on e-accessibility
In Denmark there are no specific legislation e-accessibility, which means that it is up to each authority to decide how they are handling the challenge of including everybody into the knowledge society. However the centre has adopted an ambitious goal that accessibility should be an integrated part of all relevant public procurement process in the ICT area. We want the public authority to make decisions based on knowledge and adapted to each different digital system. We have chosen public procurement as one of our focus areas. The reason is that the public sector offers more and more digital services. To live up these challenges public authorities are investing a lot in new digital systems. It represents at least 15% of the national gross product which public authorities spend on goods and services. This means that if public authorities stand united in demanding accessible digital systems the manufactures will have to make their products accessible. Guidelines and tools fro public procurement are therefore of very great importance.
Public procurement strategy
The centre has developed a public procurement toolkit, which makes it easy and free of charge for any public authority to integrate e-accessibility in their procurement process. Emphasis was on making the toolkit very easy to use and with a lot of explanatory notes to the procurer.
Most of the time, public authorities are willing to make their information and other knowledge society developments accessible. Very often however there is a lack of knowledge on what should be done to get accessible services, and why. There are also cases where public authorities put accessibility on the agenda very late in the developing process, which means that accessibility suddenly gets very difficult, expensive and maybe it will never be accomplished. From the accessibility point of view that is off course not acceptable but also from a financial point of view it is a great problem. Recently an American study on ITC products - that wasn’t especially focussed on accessibility - showed that it would cost 1 dollar to include certain functionality in an ICT product during the developing process, 6 dollars during the implementation and 17 dollars after implementation. This is some of the arguments that lead the centre to focus on the procurement process. It is easier, it is cheaper basically if gives everybody a better result.
It has to be mentioned that the public procurement toolkit has been developed in cooperation with disability organisations, public authorities, legal experts and industry.
Then, during autumn 2004, a lot of initiatives were carried out to promote it. For example a tour was organised in Denmark to present the toolkit at three different conferences arranged by the National IT- and Telecom Agency in cooperation with the Danish disability organisations. The conferences were aimed at person in the public administration that works with public procurement and decision makers. To help us with the presentation we had different disabled persons who showed in practise which challenges they meet in their everyday life. That really turned out to be an eye opener for a lot of people without disabilities. It really took accessibility to a very practical level.
The structure of the toolkit
When considering e-accessibility there is a lot of focus on web-accessibility. This is very important in a knowledge-based society because more and more services can be fund on the Internet. However we must bear in mind, that the network society is much more than the Internet. Especially the accessibility of different software solutions has to be considered, not based on the Internet.
That is one of the reasons why we have chosen to make our toolkit with 4 different sections.
Each section consists of a number of requirements. All the requirements are based on already agreed national or international standards. We haven't invented a new standard for accessible digital solutions we just gather them in one place and translated them into procurement Danish.
With every requirement you have references, which points out which national or international standard the requirement are based on. Most of the references are in English.
What and Why: How the toolkit was designed
The requirements are based on already agreed standards and guidelines. However the experience demonstrated that the requirements weren't enough by themselves. The procurer needs more knowledge on accessibility and especially on the consequences of in-accessibility. Therefore we a guidance document was added to the requirement document.
The requirement document states what the system must be able to do in order to be accessible. It is made so that procurers can cut and paste it right into their requirement specification and let the tender comment and describe how the solution lives up to the requirement.
The guidance document helps the public authorities to better understand which requirement should be put forward to the tender. The guidance document goes step by step through all the requirements explaining the consequences for different disabled groups if a certain requirement is not for filled.
With help of the guidance document the procurer will be able to indicate in the tender document whether a certain requirement is a minimum requirement or an ordinary requirement.
The hope is that the guidance document can help the public procurer to understand the essence of e-accessibility and carry out the good will and intentions of the public authority. It is most likely that if the right requirement is put forward to the industry they will off course live up to the requirement in their tender.
Now the centre is working on gathering information on how different tenders react to the different requirements. This is done with one of the of the largest consultancy companies in Denmark. This company advises public authorities in the public procurement process. They have included the toolkit in their process. This should provide useful inputs to update and improve the toolkit continuously.
In the four sections of the public procurement toolkit and for each requirement there is a standard from (Figure 1) . It can be cut and pasted directly into the requirement specification. The whole toolkit can also be attached as an accessibility appendix to the requirement specification.
For each requirement the procurer has to state its status. On the other side the tender has to state how the solution lives up to the requirement.
Figure 1 shows a sample of requirement form of the public procurement toolkit.