2. Assessing Candidates and Tenders
Accessibility should be given close consideration in the candidate selection and tender assessment. This will involve judging the accessibility credentials of candidates or tenderers, giving a weighting to accessibility within the tender award criteria and assessing the proposed work plans and functional specifications.
You will need to consider carefully whether you have sufficient knowledge and skills within your procurement team to properly assess these aspects. If not, you should consider bringing in assistance in the form of external IT accessibility consultants.
In your RFT, pre-qualification questionnaire or descriptive document, you may have asked candidates or tenderers to provide evidence of their skills and capacity that can be used to judge their suitability during a selection process. This should include descriptions of previous work in Universal Design (see Writing an RFT). It is best to assess examples of work that demonstrate compliance with the specific guidelines you have referenced in your RFT. However, since there is a lack of agreed, objective, accessibility quality marks, you may in practice have to rely on the following assessment methods, all of which may require input from independent accessibility experts:
- expert assessment of suppliers’ claims about
- accessibility auditing of existing products; and
- user testing of existing products.
All of these may be done either in-house or by independent accessibility experts, depending on whether you possess the skills within your organisation. An independent accessibility expert may also be used to assist with evaluating the deliverables later on in the development process.
Accessibility requirements should have been stated in the RFT as an explicit part of the award criteria. If you are evaluating tenders on the basis of the Most Economically Advantageous Tender (MEAT), the recommended best practice is to score each tender against a matrix of weighted criteria. There are a number of ways to include accessibility requirements in the matrix:
- group all the accessibility requirements together within a separate 'Accessibility' criterion;
- include them as part of a more general 'Usability' or 'Ease of use' criterion; and
- spread them across criteria such as 'Quality and technical merit' or 'Expertise and skills of assigned personnel'.
If accessibility is made a separate criterion, care should be taken not to double count some aspects of it. For example, staff accessibility expertise should not be counted under 'Accessibility' and again under 'Expertise and skills of assigned personnel'.
If the contract involves designing a new system with new user interfaces, the development and implementation process should be inclusive and user-centred, according to Universal Design principles. In the RFT, you should have asked tenderers to outline the main features of the process they intend to follow, including:
- how user requirements will be gathered and used;
- how the specific needs of people with disabilities will be
identified and taken into account; and
- methods of consultation with users, including people with
disabilities or their representatives.
Sample text for requesting this information is included in the Writing an RFT section.