Publication of ISO/IEC guide 71 as a step towards more accessibility in standards

5 December 2014

EDF considers the Guide as a useful document that lacks, however, the spirit of the UN Convention in some parts

On 2 December, the International Standardisation Organisation (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) released the new Guide 71 “Guide for addressing accessibility in standards”. This Guide is not a standard itself; it presents information to standards bodies and standards developers to assist them to include the needs of people with disabilities and older people when developing standards.

Given that standards are sets of requirements or technical specifications of specific products, services, materials or systems, they have the potential of enhancing access for persons with disabilities. By taking into account the needs of persons with disabilities into the standards that will guide manufacturers and service providers, many barriers will be overcome from the outset without the need of future adaptation. For this reason, EDF has been involved in the revision of this Guide, since the previous version issued in 2001 unfortunately was not very known and used among standardisers.

The new version, instead of establishing just one methodology to address accessibility, it acknowledges the existence of different approaches and it includes a set of strategies for addressing user accessibility needs and design considerations. The document also encourages standards bodies to improve the standards development process to accommodate the needs of persons with disabilities facilitating their participate in standardisation.

On the other hand, EDF regrets the inclusion of the definition of “accessible design”, a conflicting concept with the “universal design” definition ratified in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by over 150 countries. EDF considers that these two terms are neither comparable nor interchangeable, and the inclusion of new definitions such as “accessible design” can only result in confusion for standardisers and a missed opportunity for the standardisation sector to be in line with the UN CRPD.

Furthermore, EDF also regrets the procedure through which this term was introduced in the last draft of the Guide. After a democratic vote by the members of the working group in charge of the revision of the Guide deciding to remove “accessible design”, a reduced group of stakeholders overturned this decision and re-introduced this term back in the Guide, evidencing once again that some stakeholders have more influence than others in standardisation.

EDF hopes that the third international standards organisation involved in the review of this Guide, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), publishes this document with the necessary changes to align this Guide with the UN Convention. In this case, EDF will fully endorse its document.

Despite this, EDF wants to make the best out of this Guide and will work to mainstream its use in the European standardisation system, where the two main European standards organisations have already adopted it as CEN-CENELEC Guide 6, and which content remains the same as the Guide 71.

Thus, EDF strongly recommends all standards bodies in Europe to invest the necessary resources to implement this Guide effectively and following the spirit of the UN CRPD. Some actions that would help to achieve a general culture of accessibility could be awareness raising campaigns with certain regularity, and the preparation of training programmes on this Guide for standardisers and representatives from the industry and users’ organisations involved in standardisation.

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