2. Legislation about procurement and disability

The Disability Act 2005 and Code of Practice

Section 27 of the Disability Act 2005 deals with disability and procurement. The National Disability Authority's Code of Practice on Accessibility of Public Services and Information Provided by Public Bodies gives guidance on how public bodies can adhere to Section 27 of the Disability Act 2005.

The Disability Act 2005

Section 27 of the Disability Act 2005 sets out the law on the accessibility of services, which includes goods, supplied to a public body. Here is the text of Section 27:

1) Where a service is provided to a public body, the head of the body shall ensure that the service is accessible to persons with disabilities.
2) Subsection (1) shall not apply if the provision of access by persons with disabilities to any services provided to the body-
a. would not be practicable,
b. would not be justified having regard to the cost of doing so, or
c. would cause unreasonable delay in making the goods or services available to other persons.
3) In this section references to the provision of services include references to the supply of goods.
4) This section shall come into operation on 31 December 2005.

Complaints

Section 38 of the Disability Act 2005 says that a person may complain in writing to the head of a public body that has failed to comply with Section 27 (or Section 25, 26, 28, or 29). The person may complain directly or through their spouse, parent, relative, guardian, legal representative, or personal advocate assigned by Citizens Information Board.

Code of Practice on Accessibility of Public Services and Information Provided by Public Bodies

The National Disability Authority's Code of Practice on Accessibility of Public Services and Information Provided by Public Bodies sets out how public bodies can comply with the Disability Act 2005. Public bodies that comply with this Code of Practice can be confident that they are complying with the Disability Act 2005. Here is the relevant text for Section 27 of the Disability Act 2005:

Since 31 December, 2005 each public body is required to ensure that the goods or services that are supplied to it are accessible to people with disabilities unless it would not be practicable or justifiable on cost grounds or would result in an unreasonable delay. This will relate to a wide range of goods and services including equipment, materials, information technology, etc.
A public body can achieve this by:
  • reviewing existing procurement policy, procedures, practices, guidelines or templates used or developed by the public body, to establish how they can be revised to build accessibility into the procurement process as a criterion (it would be important to check whether procurement policies make an explicit statement on accessibility, for example);
  • taking care that, in all public procurement exercises, accessibility is a criterion to be considered throughout the entire tendering process, from drawing up and running tender competitions through tender evaluation and placing the contract to conclusion of procedures and review;
  • bringing this requirement to the attention of all relevant personnel who will be engaged in the tendering process and guiding them in relation to the circumstances where the requirement will not be appropriate on the grounds specified in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) in section 27(2) (see below).
Exceptions
It is recognised that it might not always be possible to ensure that goods or services purchased by the body are accessible but exceptions should only be made in accordance with the circumstances specified in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) in section 27(2) of the Act. They provide that the requirement will not apply where:
  • it would not be practicable (for example: where the technology is not readily available) or
  • it would not be justified having regard to the cost of doing so or
  • it would cause unreasonable delay in making the goods or services available to other persons (for example: where goods or services or both are otherwise available and required by other persons, so that significant delay in supplying them to those other persons would be unfair).