Universal design is relevant for many areas where public procurements play a significant role in the market. When procuring for instance public transport facilities and infrastructure related to these, it is important to plan according to the whole travelling chain – from planning of the trip to arrival and back to the point of departure. This includes – besides access to the means of transport itself – accessible format information on the webpages of the transport companies, on accessibility to terminals, that real time information is provided on the location of the vessel at any time during the trip, and others.
9.2 How to make requirements on universal design in procurement processes?
The process of public procurement consists of multiple phases: planning, specifications, market research, tendering, evaluation of offers, negotiations, contracting and follow-up. In all these phases it is important to be conscious about the inclusion of the principle of universal design in the work to design and evaluate the criteria for the awarding of contracts, even if today’s legislation is only referring to the planning stage. The process concerning public procurements can be illustrated as follows:
Figure 1 The procurement process
We will describe forthwith how universal design can be included in public tenders, contract and evaluation.
9.3 Planning of procurements
The Norwegian Law on public procurements emphasises the planning phase as particularly important. Firstly, the purchases must establish overall objectives as a base for concrete and operative targets to be met before the procurements are made. In addition it is necessary to have a good knowledge of the population which will be affected by the procurement and in what way. On the other hand one should not overemphasise the importance of the number of users. The important thing is whether one estimates if universal design can be achieved through the procurement or discover whether the procurement can have possible discriminatory effects. Procurers should develop a method to ensure that different groups of the population is taken care of, and it may be feasible to make an impact assessment regarding universal design. Finally user participation should be ensured from the different groups affected by the procurement.
Today’s regulations require that the principal during the planning of procurements should consider life cycle costs, environmental consequences and universal design respectively, of the product or service to be procured. This is interpreted in the following ways:
- The principal should adapt the tender so that what is to be procured can be used by as many as possible.
- Buildings that are to be constructed, should be adapted in a way that blind persons and other persons with disabilities can use them.
- The survey phase is important to ensure focus on the principle of universal design, and to challenge the procurer to clearly specify what is to be defined as “universal design” with a clear set of criteria.
9.4 Specifications based on survey
The procurer must be aware of the requirements to be made to the suppliers in the tender’s technical specification.
- It should be specified which criteria on which the awarded contract should be based, for instance the emphasize on universal design, compared to other criteria.
- It should be specified which conditions should apply during the implementation of the contract, for instance that it is agreed that the provider should have a specified profile regarding universal design, inclusive workforce and similar issues.
Based on the experiences with today’s regulations, there is a need for demands or recommendations for clarity regarding universal design I several of the processes that are part of public procurements. It should also be a reference to standards where these are available.
The planning phase is specially described here, but also the following phases may be relevant for requiring universal design.
9.5 Clear specifications
It should be clearly stated in the tender what is the objective of the procurement and what universal design implies in the individual procurement. It will be useful to make use of guidelines and checklists for universal design, which cover the individual areas.
9.6 Market research
When researching the market it may be important to be specific towards potential suppliers that goods and services are wanted that can be used by all according to the principle of universal design. The purpose of researching the market is to get an overview of the competition situation in potential markets and of costs. For example it is important to get an overview of available new technology, new methods and likewise. It is important to investigate if the market can deliver the products and services which yield solutions good enough for the user groups. Related to such research it may be profitable to check the profile of the suppliers regarding universal design, this can be found on the Internet, in other networks, research of the EU market etc. It is important to verify that the supplier has actual competence in the field of universal design.
9.7 Requests and announcements
It is important to have clear formulations in the announcements of public procurements, which is one of the main tools to ensure predictability and equal treatment among the suppliers. All suppliers have access to the Norwegian announcement data base Doffin (Data base for public procurement).
Technical specifications must clearly define which criteria for universal design which will be used for the goods and services wanted. Where there is a requirement for universal design in existing legislation, for instance in the Regulation on universal design of ICT, reference should be made to these requirements. It is also possible to refer to requests for emphasising universal deign in the Public Procurement Act and to refer to existing standards (se appendix for an overview of existing standards) or equivalent requirements in other specifications.
9.8 Evaluation of offers
It should be controlled whether the supplier fulfils formal requirements, and whether there are other possible reasons for possible refusal of the supplier or the offer. Furthermore it should be considered if the suppliers have the qualifications which are stated in the offer.
Concerning the offer itself it is important that the supplier’s emphasis on universal design is weighted against the criteria in the technical annex in the tender process. This is controlled through estimating if adequate documentation has been provided at that the offers are ranged according to the award criteria in the tender, in this case universal design.
Questions to be asked are: In which way do different user groups benefit, which barriers can be foreseen, and in what way does the supplier’s offer fulfil the requirements for universal access?
In case of negotiations between procurer and supplier an agreement should be made on ow the requirements for universal design are to be fulfilled in a way that both parts have a mutual understanding of this. It is possible to elaborate on this understanding during the negotiations.
9.10 Entering into a contract
In the contract it should be clearly stated which criteria for universal design are to be fulfilled and in which way, in order to avoid later disagreement. This should be clarified in a reasoned way to the suppliers, and possibly a renewed review should be made if a complaint is made on the decision.
If requirements for universal design have been made in a contract, it should be controlled that the requirements are embedded in the solution. Check list and standards for universal deign in different fields can be used to advantage.
In such an evaluation it is also relevant to review if the previously mentioned strategic reviews ensured adequate competition, and if the offers were good enough and in particular if the correct requirements and awarding criteria were made, and if the weighting was correct. A review of user participation, according to for instance Norwegian Standard NS 11040:2012, can also be made. Furthermore it is possible to estimate whether the procurement was adequately supported by established procedures, and if these were adhered to.