30th September 2016
As per the World Report on Disability by WHO, around 15 percent of the world’s population live with some form of disability. According to the Indian Population Census 2011, 2.21 percent of India’s population has one disability or the other.
Accessibility is crucial for persons with disabilities to enjoy their human rights and fundamental freedoms. There are laws that protect the rights of persons with disabilities in the country. The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, under sections 44, 45 land 46, provides for non-discrimination in transport, roads and built environment. United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), ratified by India in 2007. under Article 9, casts obligations on the Governments to take appropriate measures to ensure accessibility for people with disabilities on equal basis with others to (a) Information, (b) Transportation, (c) Physical Environment, (d) Communication Technology and (e) Services including emergency services. The National Policy on Electronic Accessibility adopted by the Government of India, recognizes the need to eliminate discrimination on the basis of disabilities and to facilitate equal access to Electronic Products and IT.
Public Procurement plays an important gate-keeping function to ensure that legal requirements and standards are adhered to while purchasing good and services. Procurement Policy can influence vendors/contractors to follow equal opportunity policy in their hiring and promote “diverse suppliers”. Following are some recommendations on the Beta Draft of Manual on Policies and Procedures for Procurement of Goods vis-a-vis persons with disabilities:
- In ‘Introduction’, add the importance of accessibility and the legislative provisions that mandate accessibility.
- In Section 1.7, where ‘Fundamental Principles of Public Procurement’ are mentioned, Accessibility and Universal Design should be stated and explained.
- In the Section 1.7, iii). ‘Broader Obligations’, it is mentioned that “Preferential procurement from backward regions, weaker sections and MSEs, locally manufactured goods or services, .....”. It should explicitly mention persons with disabilities.
- Section 1.7 (iii) d, mentions accessibility. It states, “Facilitating administrative goals of other departments of government (for example, ensuring tax or environmental compliance by participants, accessibility for People With Disabilities etc. to the extent specifically included in the ‘Procurement Guidelines’). The phrase, ‘to the extent’ should be removed. Infact this clause is vague and can be deleted. Instead, a specific clause for accessibility should be added.
- In Appendix 2, the relevant provisions of The Disability Act 1995 and the UNCRPD should be given.
- In Section 1.10.4 (7), it is mentioned, “Within this 20% quantity, a purchase preference of 4 per cent (that is, 20 per cent out of 20 per cent) is reserved for MSEs owned by Scheduled Caste (SC)/ Scheduled Tribe (ST) entrepreneurs.... MSEs would be treated as owned by SC/ ST entrepreneurs: (a) In case of proprietary MSE, proprietor(s) shall be SC /ST (b) In case of partnership MSE, the SC/ ST partners shall be holding at least 51% shares in the unit (c) In case of Private Limited Companies, at least 51% share shall be held by SC/ ST promoters.” There should be a similar clause for MSEs owned by persons with disabilities.
- Another Clause should be added that vendors/contracts/subcontractors with 50 or more employees and of the contract value of Rs. 10 Lakh or more must develop and maintain an Affirmative Action Plan to ensure non discrimination and equal opportunity policy in employment and should strive to hire at least 5% of their workforce comprising of people with disabilities.
- In Chapter 2, 2.2 (g), add the following: Comply with accessibility criteria for persons with disability for all categories of goods, services and technologies.
- In Section 2.2.2., similar to the clause given in (8), there should be audit and testing for compliance with requirements on accessibility.
- In Chapter 4, in the pre bidding qualification criteria accessibility features should be one of the essential criteria. In the Expression of Interest, suppliers should describe the accessibility features and the standards followed.
- In Section 4.16, ‘Electronic Procurement’, it should be stated that the portal should be compliant with WCAG 2.0 standards so that suppliers with disabilities can participate in the bidding process on equal basis with others.
- In Section 5.1.3, ‘Notice inviting tender’, it should be ensured that the notice is available in accessible formats.
- In Page 112, ‘Evaluation of Technical Suitability’, testing of accessibility features and compliance with accessibility standards, should be included.