Print this page


Guest Blogger



01/16/2015

Australian Government Calls for Accessible ICT

Tell a Friend

Australia will now be in line with other comparable countries in its public procurement of accessible ICT, promoting greater employment opportunities for people with disability in the public service and ensuring that all government information and services are accessible for all Australians.

Wireless broadband can open up many new possibilities ofcommunication for people with disabilities

Australia has a history of being a nation of early adopters of information and communications technology (ICT). This enthusiasm for ICT reaches across all aspects of Australian society - economic, social and cultural. However, without the market influence of a public procurement policy for accessible ICT, our enthusiasm for technology creates the risk of a widening disability digital divide.

For the first time, the Australian Government has included accessibility as a requirement in its Request for Tender for Information and Communications Technologies. Released in December 2014, the Request for Tender (RFT) will be used to establish a Whole of Government ICT Hardware and Associated Services Panel of providers. [i] The Panel will be used by all Government agencies to procure the following ICT hardware for the next three years, with the Government’s option to extend the Panel for up to three additional years:

  • Desktop PC;
  • Mobile PC;
  • Virtual Desktop Devices; and
  • Monitors

The requirement:

“2.2 Accessibility 2.2.1 It is desirable that all products comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (United States) and/or the European Standard on accessibility requirements for Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) products and services EN 301 549. If requested by Finance, evidence of compliance must be provided within 14 business days.”

While not a mandatory criterion, this is a step toward ensuring greater accessibility of government ICT products and services.

Australia’s disability and accessibility advocates have applauded this positive move from the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO). Since 2002, when TEDICORE (Telecommunications and Disability Consumer Representation) recommended the Government adopt a whole new set of government procurement policy for accessible ICT in its submission to the Government’s inquiry into regional telecommunications, Australian disability advocates have been promoting the economic and social benefits from accessible ICT in the public service.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) along with many of Australia’s leading disability organisations – Australian Federation of Disability Organisations, Blind Citizens Australia, Deaf Australia, Deafness Forum of Australia, People with Disability Australia, Vision Australia - has been actively encouraging the Government to adopt public procurement of accessible ICT. In 2009, ACCAN convened the Gov 2.0 roundtable focusing on accessibility of Government information and services. In 2011, ACCAN in partnership with leading Australian Disability organisations developed a Community Position Statement calling on the Government to adopt a whole of government procurement policy for accessible ICT.

i] In 2012 the ACCAN Grants Program published research on international best-practice public procurement policies. This research provided a strong evidence base for the adoption of an Australian whole of government procurement policy for accessible ICT.[iii] The researchers, Gunela Astbrink and Dr William Tibben (University of Woolongong) developed an advocacy toolkit to assist disability organisations and advocates to promote the adoption of a public procurement policy in their discussions with policy makers.iv] In 2013, in conjunction with the 2013 M-Enabling Australasia Conference, ACCAN convened a stakeholder roundtable with government representatives and the conference keynote speakers, Axel Leblois and Karen Peltz Strauss, to learn from the international experience in the adoption of accessible ICT procurement policies. Over the intervening 12 years since public procurement of accessible ICT first appeared on the Australian disability agenda many advocates and organisations have contributed to this successful outcome.

Australia will now be in line with other comparable countries in its public procurement of accessible ICT, promoting greater employment opportunities for people with disability in the public service and ensuring that all government information and services are accessible for all Australians.



 
Wayne Hawkins Wayne Hawkins is the Disability Policy Advisor at Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).