Video transcript - New government accessibility standards for ICT

Updated: 22 Jul 2020

Audio Length:10:46 minutes

To see the video of this transcript go to New government accessibility standards for ICT

Speaker: Hello everybody and welcome. My name is Alanna and I work for the ICT Category Management Team and we’re in charge of leading a variety of ICT Reform initiatives across the New South Wales Government. Today I’ll be discussing Accessibility Standards AS EN 301 549 and these are the requirements that are suitable for public procurement of ICT products and services.

So why are we here? I want you to imagine your loved one just got a job with the New South Wales Government. They walk into the office, they’re all excited, they sit down at their desk, and in front of them is their keyboard, mouse and laptop – the same as everyone else’s. Now imagine that your loved one is visually impaired yet they’re expected to produce the same level of work as everyone else in the office, using the same hardware and software. That’s where the Accessibility Standards come in. They want to bridge that gap and make sure that any user is able to access technology at the same level regardless of their ability.

These standards were adopted by the federal government in September 2016 so today is all about increasing awareness around the existence of the standards and what they mean and also passing on information around where you can go to find more information, tools and resources. Myself and my team are here to be a kind of middle-man to help guide you to those tools and resources and assist you in your procurement process We’re also here to hear your views and concerns to see how we can help.

So what is accessibility? Accessibility means anyone, regardless of their ability, should be able to access and use a service or technology procured by the New South Wales Government. This means there are standards that must apply to any product or service procured by the New South Wales Government that enables access for any user.

These are the users that are targeted by the standard, including those that are blind; have low vision, or are colour-blind; are deaf or hearing impaired; cannot communicate vocally; have limited hand strength or limited reach; may experience seizures; or are neurodiverse. It also includes requirements for users in remote areas and those using different kinds of devices.

The standard is a direct text adoption of the European Accessibility Standards EN 301 549 and was mandated by the Australian federal Government in September 2016. The standard aims to ensure all ICT equipment, software and services can be used by all people. The standard specifies the functional accessibility requirements for ICT products and services and also described the test procedures and evaluation methodology for each accessibility requirement, ensuring it’s suitable for use in public procurement. The standards are also very clear and provide concrete requirements to be addressing.

It is desirable for both New South Wales Government and suppliers to creating and engaging with technology that’s accessible for all users. First, it creates a consistent standard across Government and drives digitisation. It makes it easier to procure ICT products and services that have a streamlined process and it’s important to understand that we’re in a time of change - the New South Wales Government is driving digitisation and this is just one step closer to achieving that agenda.

A direct text adoption also complies with and creates consistency with international accessibility standards. The international market is increasingly moving towards accessible technology for all and we don’t want to be left behind. Engaging with products and services that are available to a larger user group is in the best interest of us all.

It also promotes the procurement of accessible technology. We need ICT products and services that will be available to all users. It increases the reach. By ensuring that your ICT product or service is accessible, it will facilitate use by more and more customers and citizens. It also increases customer satisfaction by ensuring that persons with disabilities can use ICT but in very many instances, it also improves the customer experience for a broader range of users.

It also increases return on investment. Accessible ICT promotes the creation of a single product or channel that caters flexibly for the needs of a wide variety of users. This reduces the expense and complexity of developing and supporting a multitude of solutions. This also increases equal access for suppliers meaning a supplier can compete with being the most accessible, or on other factors resting assured all competitors will be fairly weighted in the procurement process.

And lastly, it improves reputation, by being proactive in accommodating the needs for all customer or citizens. It’s a key consideration for good customer relations. It is also closely related to an organisation’s image and corporate social responsibility efforts.

As you’ve probably already worked out, the Standards are requirements to be considered when dealing with ICT equipment, software and services. It provides a framework for suppliers to ensure they can identify how they meet the standard, and it also provides New South Wales Government agencies with tools to assess the accessibility of technologies required.

Although the document is specific to procurement, it’s important to consider requirements throughout your ICT project lifecycle. A check list for suppliers may be to first, start now and be proactive. If you want to sell to public sector, you will need to be taking into account these requirements. Start by comparing your degree of compliance. The standard provides an instrument to measure the degree of accessibility for your product/service. For example, if you use an independent party to verify, neither you nor your clients have to worry about confirming compliance, leaving you to focus on creating something wonderful to sell and not worrying about the procurement process. Also, compete with usability. If you bring accessibility into the DNA of your business, look at it as making your business accessible to more people, it should be perceived as a benefit, not a cost.

So this is the Standard’s structure, those are the clauses listed down the page. It’s quite a long document, about 100 or so pages, but I will point to some tools that will help you narrow down exactly what requirements are attached to the product or service to be procured.

So this is a really important resource – this is a screenshot direct from the European website, and it breaks down managing accessibility from the beginning to the end of the procurement process. Now it’s fine to use the European website because we have a direct text adoption so everything that applies here also will apply to us. Um, now you can look at the ‘Writing a Call for Tenders’, ‘Evaluating Tenders’, any of the four there, but what I think is the most important tool is that Accessibility Requirements Generator at the bottom that I’ll be discussing further in a second.

So this is probably the most important too that we’ll be discussing, the Accessibility Requirements Generator. It actually allows you to identify requirements for a product or service in two different ways. So first is through a ‘Functional Performance Statements’ search. This is user based, quite broad and generic, and generates requirements for user specific solutions. Second is the ‘Functional Accessibility Requirements’. This creates a generic list of accessibility requirements that you’re able to tailor to a service or product to generate the applicable accessibility requirements that should be used when filling out and submitting bids. So this is product and service based and it’s very specific. We’re going to talk about these in a second. The toolkit also includes five templates for the different types of documentation that can be used for evidence of compliance.

Firstly, these are the functional performance statements so the first way in which you can identify what your requirements are. They’re used to identify each user type and what the technology needs to do so that user type can engage with it. For example, a ‘User without vision’ functional performance statement is: Where ICT provides visual modes of operation, some users need ICT to provide at least one mode of operation that does not require vision.

So as you can see they’re very broad and generic statements that identify the sort of additional functionality that needs to be provided to enable accessibility.

And these are the Functional Performance Statements that are generated once you select ah your user type from the previous slide.

And these are the Functional Accessibility Requirements. So they set out the specific technological or hardware requirements in order for you to meet the standards. So you can go through and pick out exactly what your software or hardware does and what you want to know about. So for example, if you have ICT with video, it needs to include some kind of captioning function that is synchronised with the audio.

And again these are what’s generated once you go through that first stage.

The procuring body is encouraged to assure compliance of the Standards before engaging a manufacturer or supplier. There’s two main reasons for this. First, to ensure value for money as they run the risk of paying for something that does not have the intended functionality. And second is to create equal treatment for bidders. False statements of a tender may be accepted, giving honest bidders a competitive disadvantage. So what level of evidence of compliance will be needed will depend on your procuring agency. It depends on their size, their actual procurement requirements, how digital they are – it’s something to be discussed with your agency, The procuring bodies can assure compliance in five different ways, the five different ways that are listed there. I’m not going to go through them but you can get them all online and there’s all links to templates that you can use.

So here are some tools and resources available to you can access the standard from the original website – which is that very first screenshot from the presentation, there’s also a video on how to use the toolkit so that’s also very useful. The third is the Australian Standards Library so that’s our direct text adoption of the standards. In addition, there’s also a YouTube channel you can go to that goes through the standard which I highly recommend – it’s a resource I used when putting this presentation together. It actually goes through each clause in video format and what the requirements are. The Digital Transformation Agency also provides guidance on the designing of accessible services.

So we’re continuing to look at the impact of the standard for ICT procurement but if you have and feedback or questions, please contact us on that email and we’re happy to answer them and take into account all your concerns.