ISO (International Organization for Standardization) has just published a new guide to help standards writers address the needs of the elderly and people with disabilities.

The document provides guidance for writers of International Standards as well as users of standards - manufacturers, designers, service providers and educators - on how the needs of older persons and people with disabilities can be taken into account in standards under development. The guide was developed in partnership with the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission), with input from the European standardization bodies, CEN and CENELEC.

ISO/IEC Guide 71, Guidelines for standards developers to address the needs of older persons and persons with disabilities, 30 pages, price 110 Swiss francs, is available from ISO national member institutes (see the complete list) and from ISO Central Secretariat: customerservice@iso.org. The guide is currently available in English - French and Braille versions will follow.

"The increasing prevalence and complexity of technology in everyday life presents both opportunities and challenges," said Prof. Makoto Kikuchi, Chairman of ISO's ad hoc technical advisory group on the elderly and people with disabilities. "If older persons and people with disabilities are going to be able to participate in society on equal terms, we have to improve the accessibility of products, services and environments."

The issue of accessibility to products and services has become more critical with the increasing percentage of older people in the population worldwide. While not all older persons have disabilities, the prevalence of disability or limitations is higher amongst this demographic group.

"The intention behind Guide 71 is to inform, increase understanding and raise awareness about how human abilities impact on the usability of products, services and environments, to outline the relationship between the requirements in standards and the accessibility and usability of products and services," Prof. Kikuchi explained.

"Manufacturers are going to find that the guide will help them to design and produce more products and services that more people can use, at little or no extra cost. For older persons and people with disabilities, this guide should help by the effect it has on the standards developed."

Guide 71 is intended to be part of the overall framework that standards bodies can use in their efforts to support the need for more accessible products and services. It supplements the ISO/IEC 2000 policy statement, Addressing the Needs of Older Persons and People with Disabilities in Standardization, by identifying problem areas which must be addressed in standards, while recognizing the constraint that standards should not usually be design-restrictive. The aim is standards that enhance the quality of life of older persons and people with disabilities, reduce discrimination and, at the same time, generate user-friendly products for the entire population.

ISO/IEC Guide 71 was developed by an ad hoc technical advisory group based on preliminary work undertaken by ISO Committee on consumer policy (COPOLCO).