Involving people with disabilities in the standardisation process

Chapter 1 - Introduction

Standards play an increasingly important role for information and communication technology (ICT), not just in specifying the technical interfaces but also for aspects such as the user interface and interoperability with other systems. The primary purpose of standards is to facilitate trade, and the standardisation bodies are funded accordingly, but there is an increasing awareness of the importance of consumer representation in the process. Unfortunately, this representation is often difficult to bring about because of the cost of participating and the specialist expertise which is essential to the process.

ICT systems could be complex and may involve various organisations providing terminals, networks or content. Accessibility of a system could require certain features in all three areas, so treating them as independent components is unlikely to address the facilities required to make them easy to use for people with disabilities. Therefore, there is a need to involve accessibility specialists in the design of the complete system and not just in a selection of piecemeal components.

Standardisation involves:

A girl speaking on a telephone

Formal standards used to be the preserve of national standards bodies with some being produced by international organisations (such as ISO, IEC and ITU). However, the global supply of components and multi-national sales of ICT systems has required more standards to be either European or fully international. In Europe the recognised standards organisations are CEN, CENELEC and ETSI, but industry tends to favour fully international standards for implementation.

However, in recent years there has been an increasing role for de facto standards. In some cases these have been developed by the dominant player (eg Microsoft in the area of computer software) or by groups of companies (eg Bluetooth or the World Wide Web Consortium). In addition there are also Open Systems and associated freeware and shareware. In these de facto groups, there is no formal requirement to consider the needs of people with disabilities when writing or revising a standard.

Last updated: 05.08.2009   © Copyright reserved    Website design: Digital Accessibility Team