05 October 2005 | Anusha Bradley
The European Commission has called on EU member states to change public procurement rules to make accessibility a criterion for buying IT goods and services.
An EC spokesman said accessibility could become mandatory if too few states adopt the changes on a voluntary basis.
However, a spokesman for the UK's Office of Government Commerce said the UK takes a more "pragmatic" approach. He said the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 requires public-sector bodies to make "reasonable adjustments" where relevant for disabled or elderly people, and in the drafting of ICT contracts.
He added that the Disability Discrimination Act 2005, that is scheduled to come into force in December 2006, goes further by placing a duty on public-sector organisations to promote equality and ensure their "functions, policies and services do not discriminate against certain groups".
The EC argues that changing the rules will encourage the development of accessible software and electronics to a standard, which will create more choice and reduce prices.
US legislation already requires federal departments, which buy more than 25 per cent of ICT equipment in the country, to purchase only products and services that meet accessibility standards. The EC said this helped increase the choice of products on the market.
The EC plans to conduct a progress review of the procurement rules in two years' time.