Accessible ICT Procurement

Posted by Pranesh Prakash at May 09, 2016 02:48 PM |
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Today in India there is an excellent opportunity to address the needs of persons with disabilities through accessible ICT procurement. There is a growing body of evidence globally to demonstrate that governments are successfully using accessible procurement as a means of ensuring the human rights of persons with disabilities,. They are amongst the largest purchasers of IT in any country and by requiring accessible products and services, ensure that all citizens with disabilities and government employees who are disabled are able to access and use public infrastructure and communication. CIS along with 20 other organisations petition the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Information Technology to bring in accessibility considerations within the draft Procurement Bill.

To
The Secretary,
Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD)
Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment,
Room No: 525, 5th Floor, 
Paryavaran Bhawan, CGO Complex, Lodhi Road,
New Delhi - 110003

The Secretary
Ministry of Finance
North Block, New Delhi- 110001

The Secretary
Ministry of Information Technology
Electronics Niketan, 6,
CGO Complex, Lodhi Road, New Delhi - 110003

Dear Sir/ Madam,

Subject: Urgent opportunity to address the needs of persons with disabilities through accessible ICT procurement in the draft procurement bill.

We are a group of organisations working to protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities in India. You may be aware that persons with disabilities are the world’s largest minority, comprising over a billion persons of the world population as of 2011.  We give below some important points which outline the need to consider accessible procurement for your consideration:

  1. Demographic need: As per the census of India in 2011, there are 2.21 per cent or 26 million persons with disabilities living in India. However, there is an inconsistency between the estimates of the Census and the NSS surveys due to various reasons such as different definitions, different methodologies, traditional diagnostic techniques, varied reporting responses and even the 11th five year plan opines that these numbers may be under representative and the actual number may be closer to approximately 5-6%.  A World Bank report pegs the number at about 5-8% or approximately 55-90 million in India. Hence, there is a large constituency of persons with disabilities and possibly an equally large number of persons having special needs and requiring accommodations who are not necessarily identified within this group. The needs of these persons must be taken into account in order to achieve complete national development.
  2. Need for accessible IT infrastructure: With the increasing emphasis and reliance on IT for administration, governance, communication and information through the ‘Digital India’ and ‘Smart Initiatives’, there is a need for the IT infrastructure to be accessible to enable use by all, i.e. a product or service should be usable to its maximum potential by all persons with ease and comfort irrespective of ability. For instance: Persons with disabilities cannot be given productive work in a bank if banking is not usable with the help of assistive technology; and Persons with special needs will not be able to pay bills or do banking or avail services rendered by e-governance platforms if ICT infrastructure is not usable with assistive technology. This need has already been recognized by the Government of India (GoI) through its ‘Accessible India Campaign’. Accessible ICT Procurement will be a vehicle to achieving this.
  3. Legal imperative: India is strongly committed towards creating a barrier free world with equal opportunities and without discrimination, and facilitating enjoyment of all fundamental and human rights for persons with disabilities and complete digital inclusion. India has signed and ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) which identifies access to information and information and communication technologies as a human right and requires governments to facilitate enjoyment of these rights on an equal basis and without discrimination through various measures, such as encouraging private organisations to provide accessible services and information and provide other forms of assistance to facilitate access to information and adopting minimum standards of accessibility and design for accessibility at early stage of production to reduce cost.

Article 4(a)-(d) requires states parties to act in conformance with the convention. Accessibility is an underlying principle of the CRPD and integral for persons with disabilities to enjoy all the other human rights such as access to education, employment, assistive technologies, political participation, health, independent living and cultural materials.

India has also signed other national and international instruments in this regard, such as the Inchen strategy to make the rights real for persons with disabilities, the Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise reading disabled, the Biwako Millineum framework and the Biwako plus 5, enacting various legislations related to disability, including the upcoming Bill on the Rights of persons with disabilities, the National Universal Electronic Accessibility Policy and Guidelines for Indian Government Websites (GIGW) which prescribes accessibility requirements. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – which were finalised in September 2015 and by which India is bound, also call for inclusiveness in all its goals such as education, inequality reduction, infrastructure building, economy, habitation, institutions, poverty reduction and sustainability. Hence there is a very strong legal case for implementing accessible ICT procurement, as the driver for achieving complete inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities.

  1. Proven effective mechanism: Public procurement has been identified as a very effective tool in the hands of policy makers to implement accessibility and significant strides have been made by different countries such as USA, Australia and countries in the European Union. Statistics reveal that governments are amongst the largest purchasers of IT products and services and hence well positioned to leverage this power to ensure that all products and services developed, delivered and maintained out of public money and for the use of the public or government employees are accessible. The Government of India (GoI) is also one of the largest employers of persons with disabilities, hence the absence of accessible public infrastructure hinders efficient functioning of the government itself.
  2. Standards for accessible ICT procurement: Today accessible procurement has proven a successful tool in the hands of policy makers and there are evolved standards in this domain. The two major standards are that of section 508 in USA and the En 301-549 (EN) in Europe. The latter is the most comprehensive and updated standard and there is a global move to develop a harmonized standard based on the EN. Hence, there is a readily available framework and standard in the form of the En for India to adopt and base its framework.

Key Global Initiatives

We’d like to draw your attention to the accessible public procurement initiative and charter launched by G3ict and to the arguments in the G3ict white paper for adoption of this policy. We strongly support the arguments made therein and recommend that GoI embrace accessible public procurement in the draft Procurement Bill of 2014. Some key points from the charter and initiative which argue strongly for the case of having an accessible ICT procurement policy in India are extracted and given below:

  • “Accessible procurement is relevant for the enjoyment of human rights as set out in the UNCRPD, which has been signed by 160 countries.
  • Public procurement accounts for 10-15% of a country’s GDP and   up to 16 per cent in countries in the EU, In USA, the federal government alone purchases 25 per cent of ICTs and the purchase of the federal and state governments together account for 40 per cent of the total ICT purchases of the country.
  • Public procurement policy is a strong instrument to achieve digital inclusion and serves to incentivize accessible design from the start of the development process.
  • It strengthens the local technology industry of a country and creates positive ripple effects into the broader consumer ICT marketplace.
  • It develops the national accessibility ecosystem, capacity, and expertise to develop and deliver accessible products and services and lowers costs through harmonized standards & competition. It also drives the creation of new development tools for accessible technology and better accessibility training for technology professionals.”

Conclusion and Recommendations:

Access to public services and information are critical for citizens to participate in the nation building process. The development of India hinges on the progress and inclusion of all its citizens. India has already recognized the criticality of building smart cities and the need to create an accessible India. Hence, the adoption of accessible procurement falls directly within the mandate of the GoI as it is a fundamental step to achieving India’s goals. Accessible procurement is not an option, but a necessity. We hence request the GoI to take immediate steps to rectify the lapse and include accessibility as a key consideration within the procurement Bill. Accordingly, we propose the following approach for GoI’s consideration:

  • Preparation and circulation of a note explaining the need to include accessibility as a key component of the procurement process within the government, describing rationale, business case and best practices.
  • Inclusion of suitable provisions in the present draft Procurement Bill covering the following:
  1. Identifying accessibility as a key requirement of procurement
  2. Including definitions of accessibility and accessibility standard within the definition section. (We recommend that a national standard be adopted which is similar to or in line with the European standard EN 301-549 since it is extremely evolved and being widely adopted by countries within and outside Europe.
  3. Requiring accessibility experts and persons with disabilities to be part of all committees set up towards implementation of the Act and procurement related processes at the central and state levels.
  4. Including a distinct and comprehensive section in the procurement rules notified after enactment of the Act dealing with accessible procurement processes and communication which may include the following: identification of accessibility as a selection/ award criteria, inclusion of accessibility at different stages of the procurement process, such as preparatory study, pre-qualification documents, contracts for design, development, delivery and maintenance of products and services, purchase of off the shelf products, requirement of attestation and verification procedures, self-declaration by vendors, training requirements, exemption cases, transparent bidding processes to ensure inclusion of accessibility, accessible communication, and implementation and audit mechanisms.
  5. Requiring procuring entities to include accessibility implementation within their reporting requirements.
  • GoI may undertake capacity building activities to raise awareness amongst procuring entities on accessibility.
  • GoI may draw up a plan with time lines for implementation which may be in two phases. Phase 1 may relate to setting in the process for all present and future procurement and phase 2 may relate to a plan for legacy systems which will not necessarily be replaced anew.

We would be happy to provide further inputs in this regard.

Thanking you

Yours sincerely

Mr. Pranesh Prakash
Policy Director
Centre for Internet and Society


List of Signatories

Sl. No

Name of the Person

Designation

Organisation

Email id

1

Dr. Nirmita Narasimhan

Policy Director

Centre for Internet and Society, Bangalore

nirmita@cis-india.org

2

Mr. Dipendra Manocha

President

Daisy Forum of India and President, National Association for the Blind(Delhi)

dipendra.manocha@gmail.com

3

Mr. Muralidharan

Convener

National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD)

nprd.in@gmail.com

4

Mr. Praful Vyas

Secretary

Andhjan Kalyan Trust

aktrust.drj@gmail.com

prafulnvyas@gmail.com

5

Mr. Nilesh Singit

Advocacy & Research Officer

Centre for Disability Studies, NALSAR

 

6

Ms. Charudatta Jadhav

 

Techenvision

charudatta.chess@gmail.com

7

Dr. Beula Christy

HOD-Vision

Rehabilitation Centres, L V Prasad Eye Institute

beula@lvpei.org

8

Dr. Ramesh C Gaur

University Librarian

Jawaharlal Nehru University(JNU)

1.      rcgaur@mail.jnu.ac.in

 

2.      rcgaur66@gmail.com

 

9

Dr. Homiyar Mobedji

 

Bookshare

dr.homiyar@gmail.com

 

10

Dr. Sam Taraporewala

Director

Xavier’s Resource Centre for the Visually Challenged

sam@xrcvc.org

 

 

11

Mr. Srinivasu Chakravarthula,

Hon. Joint Secretary

 

The National Association for the Blind, Karnataka

 

srinivasu@srinivasu.org

 

 

12

Mr. K Raghuraman

 

Karna Vidya Foundation

raghuram.mcc@gmail.com

 

13

Mr. Dhanajay Bhole

Coordinator

Acc Savitribai Phule Pune university

 

 

14

Mr. Prashant Ranjan Verma

Joint Secretary

National Association for the Blind – Delhi

Pr_verma@hotmail.com

 

15

Mr. N S Sastry

 

Samrita Trust

samritatrust2006@gmail.com, norisastry@gmail.com

16

Ms. Madhu Singhal

 

Mitrajyothi

admin.office@mitrajyothi.org

 

17

Mr. Bhushan Punani

 

Blind People’s Association (BPA)

 

blinabad1@bsnl.in

 

18

Mr. Anil Mudgal

Secretary

Arushi

arushiorg@gmail.com

19

Ms. Poonam Tyagi

General Secretary

National Association for the Blind, Meerut

 

20

Dr. Vimal Dengla

 

National Association for the Blind

 

21

Mr. V S Sunder

Member

DRA India

sunder@imsc.res.in

22

Mr. Mohith B P

 

 

Bpmohith.ckm@gmail.com


[1]. Available at http://censusindia.gov.in/Census_And_You/disabled_population.aspx
[2]. Please see
http://mospi.nic.in/Mospi_New/upload/disablity_india_statistical_data_11mar2011/Chapter%204-Dimension_Disability.pdf
[3]. Available at http://www.section508.gov/
[4].  Available at
https://www.etsi.org/deliver/etsi_en/301500_301599/301549/01.00.00_20/en_301549v010000c.pdf
[5].  Global Charter: Promoting Global Digital Inclusion through ICT Procurement Policies & Accessibility Standards, G3ict; URL:
http://g3ict.org/resource_center/g3ict_global_charter
[6].  CRPD Implementation: Promoting Global Digital Inclusion through ICT Procurement Policies & Accessibility Standards, G3ict available at: http://g3ict.org/resource_center/publications_and_reports/p/productCategory_whitepapers/subCat_7/id_339/

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