"It is an important goal for the whole of society that all people, regardless of their age, size or ability, have access to the broadest range of systems."
We often take easy-to-use products or services and unhindered access to facilities for granted, but when we encounter difficulties in the use of a device or service, the underlying importance of accessibility really hits home.
With this in mind the IEC (International Electro-technical Commission), the international standards and conformity assessment body for all fields of electro-technology, ISO (International Organization for Standardization), and ITU (the International Telecommunications Union) have published a new Guide, ISO/IEC Guide 71:2014, entitled Guide for addressing accessibility in standards, to help ensure that standards take full account of the accessibility needs of users from all walks of life.
Guide 71 provides practical advice to standards developers so that from the start, they can address accessibility in standards that focus, either directly or indirectly, on any type of system that people use. It covers mainly the accessibility needs of persons with disabilities, children and older persons.
Over a billion people are estimated to live with some form of disability, according to the World Health Organization. This corresponds to about 15 % of the world's population. Between 110 million (2.2 %) and 190 million (3.8 %) people of 15 years and older have significant difficulties in functioning. Furthermore, the number of persons living with a disability is increasing, due in part to aging populations and a rise in chronic health conditions.
However accessibility is not only a disability issue.
The accessibility and usability of products, services and environments have become increasingly critical for everybody, regardless of age or ability. The prevalence of digital technology in our daily lives is a clear example of the necessity to ensure accessibility for as many people as possible.
IEC General Secretary and CEO Frans Vreeswijk said, "It is an important goal for the whole of society that all people, regardless of their age, size or ability, have access to the broadest range of systems. Standards that include accessibility requirements can support the development of devices and systems that can be accessed by a greater number of users."
The new Guide 71 will help those involved in the standards development process to consider accessibility issues when developing or revising standards, particularly in areas where they have not been addressed before. It will also be useful for manufacturers, designers, service providers, and educators with a special interest in accessibility.
Guide 71 has three main aims:
IEC is working together with its partner organizations, ISO and ITU, to raise awareness of accessibility solutions. Guide 71 is the first ISO/IEC guide to have also been adopted by the ITU.