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Integrate accessibility into IT governance, project management, and procurement processes

Integrate accessibility into IT governance, project management, and procurement processes


Edited by Hardik Bhatt, Chief Information Officer, Department of Innovation and Technology;  Karen Tamley, Commissioner, Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities, City of Chicago. Contributors: Danielle DuMerer and Matthew Guilford, Department of Innovation & Technology; Laurie Dittman and Joseph Russo, Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities, City of Chicago

IT governance boards, or like bodies, are usually comprised of key stakeholders from across the organization, not only members of the IT deparment or agency. Governance board members usually review proposed projects and decide which projects the organization will initiate and fund. Local governments should consider enforcing a policy that ensures that ICT projects cannot be approved by the IT governance board until the projects' sponsoring departments or agencies have sufficiently demonstrated that ICT accessibility standards will be met by the project team. IT governance boards should incorporate accessibility checks into project review gates. Projects that have not sufficiently addressed standards should not continue to the next phase.

After a project has received IT governance board approval, the project sponsor should communicate the need to meet these standards clearly via the project charter. By doing so, the project sponsor will ensure that the project manager and team understand this requirement. When aware of the standards, project managers may plan for team member training, if necessary, and ensure that standards are considered appropriately during all phases of the product life-cycle. ICT accessibility standards should be considered as inputs to certain project management processes. As such, ICT accessibility standards should be referenced in key project documentation, including, but not limited to, the project charter, scope statement, quality management plan, communications management plan, and project management plan.

Whether services are procured to develop a product, or a product is procured out-of-the-box, all procurement documents (i.e., bid, contracting, and related boilerplate and template documents) should include a statement about the local government's ICT accessibility standards. These documents may include, but are not limited to, Request for Qualifications, Request for Proposals, and Contracts. Including language in the contract that requires vendors to comply with the local government's accessibility standards is especially important if no country or state/provincial legislation exists. Local governments should also consider requiring vendors to complete a voluntary product accessibility assessment or compliance checklist as part of their responses/proposals. These completed forms should be reviewed and weighted appropriately in the vendor/product selection process. Individuals involved in the decision-making process should also attempt to verify the claims made by the vendor in their self-assessment.

It is important to consider how local government accommodates employees with disabilities who need assistive technology to perform the essential function of the job. Local governments should be able to procure and deploy assistive technologies upon request in a timely manner, and should have a clear process for obtaining these assistive technologies to accommodate both new and current employees. For the City this has been critical to ensure a diverse workforce that includes employees with disabilities. Individuals involved in the hiring process should consult their local laws and regulations to determine the procedures for providing employees with appropriate accommodations.

To ensure that funding is available for assistive technologies or other employment-related accommodations, the City established a "reasonable accommodation fund," which is managed by the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities. The "reasonable accommodation fund" is available to all City employees, upon approved request, to cover the costs of individual accommodation needs. The established fund relieves budgetary pressures on individual City departments and has proven effective in assuring timely and appropriate delivery of assistive technologies or other equipment to the employee.