1. Introduction

Purpose of this document

This guidance is for staff in public bodies responsible for carrying out and managing the procurement of services and goods.

Section 27 of the Disability Act 2005 requires the head of a public body to ensure that services provided and goods supplied to the public body are accessible to people with disabilities, unless that would not be practicable, would be too expensive, or would cause an unreasonable delay.

The National Disability Authority's 2008 Monitoring Report on the implementation of our "Code of Practice on Accessibility of Public Services and Information provided by Public Bodies" show that many public bodies are seeking advice and support on how to implement these provisions. Here are some challenges in this area:

  • Complexity of procurement-related legislation
  • Lack of awareness of requirements around accessibility
  • Lack of skills necessary for assessing accessibility of services and goods.

This document aims to:

  • Increase awareness of the legal requirement under the Disability Act 2005 for public bodies to ensure that services or goods supplied to them are accessible to people with disabilities; and
  • Guide public bodies on how they can build accessibility into their procurement policies, procedures and practice.

This guidance is for information and is not a definitive legal interpretation of any legislation or regulation. It should be supplemented by legal and technical advice as required.

What is accessibility?

An accessible service or good is one which can be used by all its intended users, taking into account their differing capabilities. Users' abilities may be impaired, either permanently or temporarily, by various physical, intellectual, sensory, or mental health disabilities.

Services and goods

Services provided to public bodies can include:

  • Transport services
  • Janitorial and cleaning services
  • Security services
  • Training
  • Event management
  • Refurbishment of buildings
  • Management of construction sites
  • Telecommunications
  • Advertising
  • Designing, printing, and publishing.

Goods supplied to public bodies can include:

  • Office equipment
  • Office furniture
  • New built environment projects
  • Websites
  • Website content management systems
  • Ticket machines and smart cards
  • Public computers and kiosks.

The accessibility of your buildings affects the accessibility of the services and goods that you provide through them. The more accessible your building is, the better chance your customers have of being able to access the services and goods inside them. Also, well-trained staff and accessible information can help customers to access a service even in buildings with limited accessibility.

Staff should be aware of the accessibility features-and limitations-of services and goods, so that they can explain them to customers when necessary.

Who benefits from accessibility?

Increased accessibility brings benefits for your customers, your colleagues, your suppliers, your finances, and society at large:

  • All customers and colleagues benefit from being able to use services and goods more effectively.
  • Your organisation benefits from reducing the need to provide expensive alternative channels for customers who cannot use particular services and goods. Designing and planning for accessibility from the start will prevent the need for adding accessibility at the end. The earlier you include accessibility, the more money you save.
  • Your suppliers benefit from an increased customer base, because the more accessible their services and goods, the more people can use it. The public sector can influence their suppliers' supply chain so that they produce more accessible services and goods which can be purchased by other customers.
  • Society at large benefits through the inclusion of more citizens in social, economic, and cultural life.

Accessibility for people with disabilities is a particularly important consideration when you procure:

  • Major building works
  • Services, products, buildings, or information that the general public will access
  • Items with long life spans, such as buildings, trains, and large information technology projects
  • Where the procurer knows that there is a particular requirement to accommodate customers with disabilities.