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Standards Developers Urged to Support Older and Disabled People

People working on technical standards for mainstream products and services must be more aware of the needs of older and disabled people, delegates at eAccess 13 heard in a closing session in speakers raised key points for the future of accessibility.

Gill Whitney, head of the Design for All Research Group at Middlesex University, said that in a recent survey of committee members by the British Standards Institution, only one third answered ‘yes’ to the question: “Do any of your standardisation activities involve the standardisation of products or services where the accessibility for older and disabled people needs to be considered?”

However, almost four-fifths of respondents (76.7%) had said yes to the question: “Do any of your standardisation activities involve the standardisation of products or services which are designed to be used by people?”

In an ageing society, these answers make no sense together, Whitney said, since all standards for people are also standards for older and disabled people. One development that might help is the current revision of the international standards creation guidance ISO/IEC Guide 71:2001, she said: guidelines for standards developers to address the needs of older persons and persons with disabilities.

“Embrace mobile first” was another key point presented by Jonathan Hassell, former head of accessibility at the BBC and founder of Hassell Inclusion.

“For me, the most natural place for somebody with any type of impairment to get a better experience of the world is through a mobile device. It’s the one thing they have with them all of the time, [that] they will depend on for absolutely everything,” Hassell said. “If you are not thinking about accessibility and mobile you’ve got it completely back to front.”

Mel Findlater, Director of The You Can Hub, made a similar point when she took to the stage dressed in a cardboard box. “As a society, we put people with disabilities in boxes all the time” Findlater said. “Technology, especially mobile technology, has real potential to help people with disabilities step out of their boxes. Can we start thinking in that way, co-design with people and help people step out of their boxes?”


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