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Design for All and Assistive Technologies in ICT

Guidelines to Standardisers of ICT products and services in the CEN ICT domain - 3rd draft

Project team: Jim Sandhu (team leader)
John Gill
Loïc Martínez-Normand

 1 Contents

2 Executive Summary
3 Introduction
4 Scope
5 References
6 General Considerations
6.1   Disability: New Definition

Barriers, the Digital Divide and Mindsets

6.3   International Policy Standards Which Impact on Europe
6.4   Standards and Legislation
6.5   Public Procurement
7.1   The Role of Design-for-All
7.2   Adaptive and Assistive Technologies
7.3   Universal Access
7.4   Universal Service Obligations
8 Other Examples of Good Practice
8.1   New Canadian Standard: Services for People with Disabilities
8.2   SECTION 225: Telecommunications Access for People with Disabilities (US)
8.3   DFA & Japanese Efforts in Standardisation in the Disabled and Elderly Sector
9 eEurope
9.1   Introduction
9.2   The Programme
9.3   Benchmarking and DFA
9.4   Directly Relevant Websites
10 eAccessibility for All
10.1   Introduction
10.2   TRI Content and Related Aspects
10.3   User Involvement
10.4   Priority Areas
11 Computing Checklists
11.1 Introduction
11.2 Hardware: computer system
11.3 Hardware: peripherals
11.4 Software: operating system
11.5 Software: applications
11.6 Documentation
12 Conclusions
Annex A UN Standard Rules
Annex B eEurope Action Plan

More detailed information on the TIRESIAS website (

 2 Executive Summary

This report is targeted at standardisers but will no doubt benefit many others working in the field of ICT and people with activity limitations such as SMEs and NGOs. Its scope is defined by Mandate 273 which focuses on clarifying ICT standardisation in relation to disabled and older people in the context of design-for-all (DFA).

The report outlines the new and agreed definitions of disability from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and how the emerging digital divide, policy, standards and legislation impact on ICT utilisation. It defines public procurement and DFA as a key to implementing change for the better. The report goes on to cover Universal Access and Service Obligations including some of the key developments in Europe, Canada, US, and Japan. In view of its main remit the report devotes several pages to clarifying EU and European Commission plans and policies for eEurope and eAccessibility with particular reference to eLearning, eHealth, eBusiness, eTransport and benchmarking issues. It also emphasis why the political environment is crucial to the process and implementation of standards.

The report emphasises that standardisation and benchmarking are a key issue to ensure that technological progress benefits all consumers, including people with activity limitations.

The detailed and complementary website developed for this project provides a more detailed overview of ICT, activity limitations, demographics, metrics, application areas and technology which can enhance quality of life of the target group. The website has extensive references and links.

This report concludes with recommendations for formulating policy, standardisation activities and actions for implementation.

  3 Introduction

These guidelines which are targeted towards standardisers but which could also include SMEs and NGOs address the promises and barriers Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) potentially create for older and disabled people. The prime intention is to maximize awareness and to provide information that complements CEN/CENELEC/ETSI GUIDE 6. There are two main issues that summarize this report's approach: accessibility of life environments and access to opportunities and participation. The guidelines affirm that the application of design-for-all principles and the specific advances in mainstream ICT as well as in assistive devices have a major role in improving the accessibility of living environments for disabled and older people.

Aside from developments in medical care which have had a significant impact on the quality of life of EU citizens, developments in ICT offer tremendous potential and tangible opportunities. The main thrust of these guidelines is that such technologies can enhance the ability of people to undertake activities for daily living (ADL), to compensate and even substitute for mental, sensory and physical activity limitations and consequently to realize their potential for independent, meaningful and productive living. Developments in basic and applied technologies of many types are relevant here e.g., telecommunications, opto-electronics, computing, smart houses, financial transactions, broadcasting, etc. The guidelines cover both hardware and software aspects. In the context of disability, low, medium and high technologies all have a role to play in creating products and services which can enhance the quality of life.

In addition to specific technologies the guidelines also focus on significant application areas such as education, healthcare, transport, etc., in order to present a seamless overview. The latest developments in European policy and programmes which impact on standardization are also covered, on the principle that political decisions are vital to the implementation of standards. Of particular relevance are the eAccessibility and the eEurope initiatives - including the eEurope Benchmarking Report [COM(2002) 62 final]. These are crucial trends which will impact on ICT as more and more 'Accessibility of the Virtual Environment' is brought within the scope of 'eInclusion' with fewer direct references to people with activity limitations. This is not to say that user-focused organizations such as EDF and ANEC should not remain vigilant.

As design-for-all is at the hub of eInclusion it is worth highlighting some of its attributes and benefits:

  • product or service allows maximum access to the maximum number and diversity of users;
  • being ‘person centred’ – that is, user-friendly and convenient, but also respectful of user dignity, rights and privacy;
  • open and transparent;
  • affordable;
  • has appropriate eTraining and eEducation for everyone;
  • being linguistically and culturally sensitive – recent Eurostat statistics suggest that English is a barrier to wider Internet use in Europe;
  • being accessible.

In order to maximize the impact of ICT a number of goal-conscious measures have to be taken to ensure that technologies serve the needs of people with activity limitations in different economic, cultural and geographical situations. This necessarily entails user involvement throughout the developmental process in order to incorporate all the key user requirements. The guidelines intend to provide a basic framework for reference, links to more specific sources as well as a springboard for action for those concerned with inclusive policies, inclusive planning and design for all.

The guidelines are based on the fact that technologies are fast converging. In some domains it is not possible to draw a line between telecommunication and ICT. This is the rationale for including relevant sectors of the former. In the context of convergence the guidelines envisage very rapid and significant developments of the Bluetooth and Wi-fi (or 802.11b) technologies that have already begun to make an impact on ICT but do not figure in any convergent standardisation activity. Aside from convergence, there has been a drastic shift from a traditional service society to a self-service society that is rapidly developing.

Also, aside from convergence, the key IT trends are digitisation and miniaturisation, the doubling of computing capacity every nine months, as well as the overlap of home and business markets, increasing functionality and falling hardware prices. In addition ICT products are being launched ever more rapidly onto the market.

In a sense this document should be seen as a concise introduction or taster focusing on broad-based policy issues. As indicated by the Contents page which has a cut-off point indicating where this report flows into the following website, where much more detailed technical information, references and important links can be found –

This document has endeavoured to reconcile and accommodate the differing requirements of standardisers and SMEs. However, it should be recognised that in the long run both share a common goal - the development of tools which enhance the quality of life of all citizens. Similarly, a clear understanding of public procurement would not only benefit SMEs directly but also make standardisers aware of a major tool that is bringing about significant changes in product and service specifications.

Finally, the long term goal of workers in the field should be proper Harmonised Guidelines on ICT accessibility which are supported by a robust and enforceable legal base. This is not just a social issue, but an economic, business, intellectual and human rights issue for Europe.

It is clear from the above that legislation, user expectations, user fora, standardisation and evaluation are inextricably linked. This link is graphically illustrated in the following Generalised Content Map (figure 1).

Figure 1. Generalised Content Map for DFA/ICT CEN/ISSS Guidelines

 4 Scope

This EC/EFTA funded project is focussed on producing guidelines for standardisers which complement ISO/IEC Guidelines 71 or CEN/CENELEC/ETSI Guide 6. It's precise remit is dictated by the European Commission’s Mandate M273 to the Standards Bodies for Standardisation in the field of information and communications technologies (ICT) for disabled and elderly people.

M273 was the result of serious concern in the EU that disabled and older people are a large and growing proportion of the European population. There is large overlap between these two groups since disability is strongly age-related, with 70% of people with activity limitation being aged 60 or over. The overall numbers in this group are estimated to be between 60-80 million. The changing European age structure means that by the year 2020, one in four of the population will be over 60, and the largest increase is expected in the oldest groups (75+) where disability is most prevalent.

M273 acknowledged that the provision of technology-based solutions for integrating disabled and older people and helping them to lead full and independent lives requires several complementary strands. The most appropriate to the present effort are: design-for-all (DFA); information and communications technologies (ICTs) and the right political environment. Standardisation is the cement that can gel the three strands to maximise effectiveness.

These guideline acknowledge the above strands by focusing on two sets of information: description of the political background (aimed at the political entities both inside and outside standardisation and more detailed service/product specific guidance, aimed at designers of ICT systems.

 5 References
  1. CEN/CENELEC/ETSI., GUIDE 6: Guidelines for standards developers to address the needs of older persons with disabilities. CEN. 2001.
  2. Preiser, W., & Ostroff, E. (Eds). The Universal Design Handbook. McGraw-Hill, 2001.
  3. Christophersen, J. (Ed) Universal Design: 17 Ways of Thinking and Teaching. Husbanken, Norway, 2002.
  4. Vanderheiden, G., and Tobias, J. Universal Design of Consumer Products: Current Industry Practice and Perceptions. In Proceedings of the XIVth Triennial Congress of the International Ergonomic Association. Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, Santa Monica, CA, 2000.
  5. Roe, P.R.W. (Ed) Bridging the GAP? Access to telecommunications for all people. COST219bis/European Commission/STAKES, 2001.
  6. Delvert, J., Hampshire, B., & Lindstrom, J-I.(Eds) Bringing Universal Design to the ICT Market –What are the prerequisites? Proceedings of a seminar held in Stockholm June 2001. Office of the Disability Ombudsman, Stockholm, 2002.
  7. Vanderheiden, G., Design for People with Functional Limitations Due to Disability, Ageing or Circumstances. In Gavriel Salvendy (ed) Handbook of Human Factors and Ergonomics, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1997.
  8. Sandhu, J.S. Multi-Dimensional Evaluation as a Tool in Teaching Universal Design. In: Universal Design: 17 Ways of Thinking and Teaching. Edited by J. Christophersen, Husbanken, Norway, 2002.
  9. ANEC. Consumer Requirements in Relation to ICT Standardisation. ANEC2001/ICT/026.
  10. WHO. International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health. Geneva. 2001.
  11. UN. United Nations Standard Rules on Equal Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities. 1993.
  12. ETSI. Guidelines on the Consideration of User Requirements when Managing the Standardisation Process. EWG 201 219. 2001.
  13. European Commission. PROMISE - Promotion of the Information Society in Europe. 2000.
  14. Maxwell, C. (Ed) Trends: Universal Access to Information Sources. UNESCO. 2000.
  15. European Commission. Convergence of Telecommunications, Media and the Information Technology Sector. Green Paper (COM1998/585), 1999.
  16. Nordic Cooperation on Disability. Nordic Guidelines for Computer Accessibility. NCD. 1998.
  17. EU. Towards a Barrier-Free Europe: The Hermange Report. Luxembourg, 2002.

Some Key Websites



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