Public sector procurement should be used to improve equality for people with disabilities, including the development of more accessible IT systems, according to a government bill passing through Parliament.
The Equality Bill
), introduced to the Commons on 24 April and currently undergoing its committee stages, aims to reform and harmonise equality law. Notes accompanying the bill say: “With an annual expenditure of around £175 billion every year on goods and services, the public sector has an important opportunity to use its purchasing power to promote equality where possible.”
Aimed at replacing previous legislation on inequality, including the Disability Discrimination Act, the bill calls for selective procurement to ensure public services reflect the skills and needs of a diverse society. “It is right that public money is spent on goods and services in a way that advances the government’s public policy objectives on equality,” the notes say.
Examples of how this strategy could be implemented are outlined, including the use of pre-qualification questionnaires for assessing the suitability of potential suppliers, with a possible requirement to disclose any previous breaches of equality legislation.
The Employers’ Forum on Disability has welcomed the bill. Speaking to E-Access Bulletin about procurement of accessible ICT equipment, Vanessa Hardy, EFD’s Campaigns Manager, said: “We know that many disabled employees are still faced with inaccessible non-web based legacy in the workplace. However, [suppliers] are starting to understand the mutual benefits to business and disabled people of delivering accessible and usable products.”