Accessibility as a Mandatory Requirement in Public Procurement

The public procurement directive of 2014 requires that all public procurement for a product or service intended for use by people must include accessibility as a mandatory requirement in its technical specifications. They also require that, where a standard has been used in EU regulations, this may be used to define accessibility in the technical specifications. EN 301 549 is such a standard.

The approach of using a technical standard to define accessibility in public procurement aligns with that used in other jurisdictions and regions. For example, the Section 508 standard in the USA is mandated for use in all procurement funded by the federal government. Both EN 301 549 and Section 508 are equivalent, meaning a piece of technology that is compliant with one of these standards is also compliant with the other standard.

Many technology companies publish reports on the compliance of their products and services with Section 508 and EN 301 549 to assist federal authorities and others to identify accessible products and services when conducting market research. Section 508 and EN 301 549 are considered by the ICT industry to be stable and achievable accessibility standards. Both standards contain widely agreed and harmonised accessibility requirements that are clear, unambiguous and achievable. These requirements are also precisely testable, ensuring that both procurers and ICT companies can be confident that when an ICT product or service complies with the standard, it can be deemed to be accessible to users with a wide range of accessibility needs.