Around the world … COPOLCO member news
Mobilization for universal design
Aconference on universal design (also known as "design for all", or "inclusive design").
As written in Article 2 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, "universal design" means the design of products, environments, programmes and services to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. “Universal design” shall not exclude assistive devices for particular groups of persons with disabilities where this is needed.
Applying the principles of universal design can promote accessibility for all. The ageing population and policy decisions affecting persons with disabilities make all actions which raise awareness and encourage the deployment of relevant initiatives even more necessary.
Standardization already provides tools for designers in the areas of domestic appliances, construction, and ICT, but many more projects will likely start in the coming years. The challenge will be to organize feedback and incorporate all users' needs in the future.
The Consumer Committee of AFNOR is also continuing its outreach on this topic. It has held regular contacts with disability groups, and will continue to do so.
A lecturer, researcher and consumer advocate from the University of Delhi, Professor Sri Ram Khanna, commented on rising food prices in Indian markets during a recent interview on CNEB TV, near Delhi, on 4 November 2011.
Prof. Khanna pointed out that food price inflation exceeded 12% according to official data released that week and that this was putting strain on poorer families. The root causes lay in the rising cost of production on the supply side and rising demand in food consumption, fuelled by rising incomes and increased demand from families for fruit, vegetables and a number of other items. Furthermore, the demand from hotels and restaurants was increasing as more middle-class families go out to eat. Prof. Khanna stated that there is little the government can do to address the imbalance between supply and demand. Food price inflation would therefore likely continue in the short term. He added that only measures to increase food supply and agricultural production could ease food price inflation in Indian markets in the medium and long term.
Consumer law reform
The government in New Zealand is undertaking a major review of consumer law, and a Bill has been drafted to put proposed changes before the New Zealand Parliament. The objective of the Bill is to revise and update consumer law so that it:
- is principles-based;
- enables consumers to transact with confidence;
- protects suppliers and consumers from inappropriate market conduct;
- is easily accessible to those who are affected by it; and
- achieves alignment with the Australian Consumer Law, as appropriate, in accordance with the Government’s agenda of a single economic market with Australia.
The Bill contributes to the government’s Regulation Review programme. It modernizes consumer law; several of the existing consumer laws had not been reviewed for many years and are not in accordance with modern trading practices such as Internet transactions, and telephone and credit card sales.
If the proposals in the Bill are ratified they will extend the range of powers open to regulators to take action against unsafe consumer products, and make additional requirements of businesses to report incidents involving serious injury to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs.
Button battery safety initiative
The New Zealand Ministry of Consumer Affairs is working with counterparts from United States (CPSC), Australia (ACCC), Japan (METI) and Korea (KCA) looking at the growing concerns around button batteries. Button batteries (the small disc shaped batteries) are increasingly used in a wide variety of applications. These include remote control units, mobile phones, hearing aids, toys, musical greeting cards, novelty books, calculators, watches and so on. They are getting more powerful than earlier variants with the use of lithium ion technology. Their small size has always presented an obvious hazard for infants and children around swallowing and choking.
A new and emerging risk has become evident with data showing that when a button battery comes into contact with bodily fluids it creates an electrical current. If swallowed, these batteries can cause burns and tissue damage in as little as two hours and lead to serious and sometimes permanent injuries. In terms of consumer awareness, this appears to be a little-known threat and can cause serious damage that requires multiple, painful surgeries to repair. In some cases it can prove fatal.
Evidence from the US, Australia and elsewhere shows that button batteries are an emerging risk, as they are found in an increasing range of devices and new lithium ion types are much more powerful. In the United States, more than 19 children sustained life-threatening or debilitating injuries last year.
The New Zealand Ministry of Consumer Affairs is aware of at least four cases of injury in New Zealand, though less serious incidents are likely to be underreported. There is also evidence that the elderly may also be at risk, with overseas reports of button batteries – also used in hearing aids – being mistaken for pills and tablets. This initiative will examine the options for mitigating the risks around button batteries that could be applied around the world.
Action plan on universal design launches new projects
Standards Norway has had an action plan on universal design in standardization since 2004. Several national standards for universal design have been published and there are more to come. Several reports have also been produced for the Norwegian Authorities on standardization in such fields as self-service automats, touch screen technology, universal design of open networks, including mobile networks, universal design of services and others.
At the European level, CEN has recently established a Strategic Advisory Group on Accessibility. The EU Commission has given a mandate M/473 to this work, which covers coordination of standardization concerning design for all and implementation in relevant standards. Standards Norway holds the secretariat of CEN/SAGA.
Published Norwegian standards (NS) resulting from the plan:
NS 11001-1:2009, Universal design of building constructions - Part 1: Buildings open to the public. (Published in English)
NS 11001-2: 2009, Universal design of building works - Part 2: Housing
NS 11010: 2011, Accessible tourist destinations - Registration of priority requirements and recommendations (Published in English)
NS 11005:2011, Universal design of developed outdoor areas - Requirements and recommendations
Ongoing projects which will lead to national standards or publications:
During spring 2012, Standards Norway plans to publish a Norwegian Guideline on “Wayfinding in buildings”.
A standardization project has been started to develop standards on universal design of ICT, including a standard on self-service automats and on accessible formats of documents. The committee developing these standards is also monitoring the JWG eAccessibility that was launched to meet the requirements of EU’s Mandate M376 Design for All of ICT for public procurements.
A standardization project on universal design and accessibility related to services has been established. It is developing a generic standard related to the universal design of the physical framework supporting the services, and the actual performance of accessible services.
Based on a report on the status of standardization related to universal design of the travel supply chain, a project is ongoing to develop an electronic toolkit for public procurers, deliverers of transport related goods and services, public authorities and NGOs, where information on guidelines, legislation, available standards, and policies affecting universal design of transport can be found. This “one-stop-shop” toolkit is divided into information (ICT and ticketing), outdoor areas, the built environment and infrastructure and means of transport. Later, a standardization project will be launched.
Standards Norway is following the work based on EU’s Mandate M420 on Design for All of Buildings, which is administered by CEN WG 207.
TISI trains and prepares students for industry
The Thai Industrial Standards Institute has cooperated with universities in providing training on international management system standards to senior-year students so that they can apply this knowledge in their future careers. This could prove instrumental to promoting standards in the workplace, and in turn benefit quality in production and safety for consumers.
The project's main objective is to help students understand the significance of standards, be able to make practical use of the knowledge in their vocations and be better prepared for the task of setting up management systems to enhance their organization's efficiency and effectiveness. Because these students are the key resource and force behind the country’s industrial development, the Thai Industrial Standards Institute has placed high priority on this project: students can contribute to high-quality production and consumer protection.
To date 2,036 students from 11 leading universities have undergone the training. More are expected to join them, as TISI and the university network have been involved in the development of management system courses adapted for the curriculum of relevant faculties.
The project has received the full cooperation of participating universities who recruited students in fields related to the training. This has helped maximize the benefits and meet the objective of the project.
Green Deal on its way
A key stage in the UK Government’s programme to increase energy efficiency whilst protecting the ‘vulnerable’ consumer has just been reached. On 18 October 2011, the Energy Bill received Royal Assent and became the Energy Act 2011.
The Energy Act provides for some of the main elements of the UK Government’s Annual Energy Statement which is divided into four areas:
- Saving energy through the Green Deal and supporting vulnerable consumers
- Delivering secure energy on the way to a low carbon energy future
- Managing our energy legacy responsibly and cost-effectively
- Driving ambitious action on climate change at home and abroad
British Standards Institution, with consumer involvement, has been working with the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), to draft a Green Deal standard, PAS 2030, which sets out requirements that installers will follow to ensure that the installation of new energy efficiency measures is completed properly. As part of the British Government’s Green Deal initiative, all installers will have to be certified to PAS 2030. The draft has been out for public comment and it is expected to be published by the end of January 2012.
BSI carbon footprinting standard updated
Another standard which fits with environmental concerns is PAS 2050, the BSI standard used by organizations internationally to calculate the carbon footprint of their goods and services. It was described to COPOLCO members at the Annual Workshop in Seoul in 2008.
The 2011 revision makes the PAS 2050 methodology more relevant and accessible to a wider range of organizations by addressing issues raised by the international carbon footprinting community, as well as the experiences of PAS 2050 users since the standard was first published in 2008. This includes aligning the standard as much as possible with other internationally recognized footprint methods.