Aiming For Accessibility For All: IEC, ISO and ITU Publish New International Accessibility Guide

The IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission), the international standards and conformity assessment body for all fields of electrotechnology, ISO (International Organization for Standardization), and ITU (the International Telecommunications Union) have published a new guide entitled, ISO/IEC Guide 71:2014, 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 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.

According to the World Health Organization, more than one billion people are estimated to live with some form of disability. This corresponds to about 15 percent of the world's population. Between 110 million (2.2 percent) and 190 million (3.8 percent) of 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 ageing 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.

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:

  • Help designers, manufacturers and educators gain a better understanding of the accessibility requirements of an increasing part of the population;
  • Increase the number of standards containing accessibility considerations, with perhaps a greater number focusing specifically on accessibility;
  • Integrate accessibility features into standards – and product or service design – from the outset.

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.