ISO, IEC and ITU take accessibility to new heights

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By Elizabeth Gasiorowski-Denis
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Unhindered access to facilities and ease of use of products and services are often taken for granted. Normally, we only realize how important they are when we fail in using something. But standards can help! ISO, IEC and ITU have just published a new Guide that advises standards developers on how to make sure their standards take full account of the accessibility needs of users from all walks of life, and in particular 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 ageing populations and a rise in chronic health conditions.

Why accessibility

Accessibility is not just a disability issue. The accessibility and usability of products, services and environments have become increasingly critical for everybody, regardless of age or ability. Unprecedented population growth has meant that more people than ever before have diverse and special requirements – and that includes the elderly, children, and persons with disabilities. The prevalence of digital technology in many facets of life is a clear example of the necessity to ensure accessibility for as many people as possible.

How Guide 71 helps

The new Guide titled Guide for addressing accessibility in standards 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.

Main aims

The new Guide on accessibility will achieve essentially three things:

  • Help designers, manufacturers and educators gain a better understanding of the accessibility requirements of our increasing 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

What’s new

ISO is working together with its partner organizations, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), to raise awareness of accessibility solutions. Guide 71 is the first ISO/IEC guide to have also been adopted by the ITU. Its publication is accompanied by a new joint policy statement by IEC, ISO and ITU on standardization and accessibility.

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Elizabeth Gasiorowski-Denis

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