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A new report and advocacy toolkit has just been published that calls for better access to affordable and available communications technologies for people with disability as well as a more open opportunity to enter the workplace.

Written by Dr Will Tibben of the University of Wollongong and Gunela Astbrink of GSA Information Consultants, the report, Government ICT Purchasing: What differences do accessibility criteria make for people with disabilities?, outlines the benefits of having accessibility criteria a standard part of government ICT procurement policies. In simple terms, this means that when governments buy information and communications technology (ICT) systems and services, there is a requirement for any equipment or services to incorporate universal design principles so that they are readily usable by everyone.

In addition to the report, the authors have created an advocacy toolkit and sample letter that provide simple instructions for consumer advocates on how to encourage government agencies to adopt ICT procurement policies that incorporate accessibility standards.

The report outlines three clear benefits that would stem from the adoption of these policies:

1)      As one of the largest buyers of ICT, the government has the purchasing power to stimulate the market to give us a greater choice of accessible products and services. If, as part of the tender process, governments explicitly say they wanted to buy ICT that is accessible for people with disability, companies will try harder to include those features when designing and developing new products.

2)      If companies were alerted to the value of accessibility features in ICTs, it would create a flow-on effect where a greater choice of accessible products would then be available on the market for everyone to buy.

3)      Including accessibility criteria in government ICT purchasing would also help to ensure that public service workplaces are accessible for current and future employees with disability from the outset.

This last point is important as the number of employees with disability in the Commonwealth’s public service has decreased from 5.5% in 1996 to 3.1% in 2010.

This project was funded under the 2011 round of the ACCAN Grants Scheme. Read more: ACCAN Grants Scheme Projects