New European Standard will help to make ICT products and services accessible for all

19-02-2014 The European Standardization Organizations (CEN, CENELEC and ETSI) are pleased to announce the publication of a new European Standard on accessibility requirements for Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) products and services. This new standard (EN 301 549) is the first European Standard for accessible ICT.

It is intended in particular for use by public authorities and other public sector bodies during procurement, to ensure that websites, software and digital devices are more accessible – so they may be used by persons with a wide range of abilities.

The new European Standard on 'Accessibility requirements suitable for public procurement of ICT products and services in Europe' (EN 301 549) was produced by CEN, CENELEC and ETSI in response to a request from the European Commission (Mandate 376). It was developed by an international team of experts, with the participation of the ICT industry and organizations representing consumers, people with disabilities and older persons.

The new European Standard is complemented by a series of three Technical Reports (TR 101 550, TR 101 551 and TR 101 552). Together, these documents set out accessibility requirements that can be applied to a wide range of products and services related to ICT, including computers, smartphones and other digital devices, ticketing machines, websites and emails. The aim is to ensure that ICT products and services are accessible either directly or through compatibility with assistive technologies such as text-to-speech, so that everyone can access information and use services that are being delivered electronically.

The new European Standard and its accompanying Technical Reports provide a framework for developing a wide range of applications that will make ICT products and services more accessible for the 80 million Europeans who are living with various types of disability. Potential applications include audio and/or tactile interfaces that can be used by visually impaired persons, or hardware such as smartphones and laptops that can be operated using one hand.

EN 301 549 is the most up-to-date standard for ICT accessibility, and it was developed through an inclusive process with the active involvement of relevant stakeholders. While the accessibility requirements are defined in a form that is suitable for use in public procurement, they could also be used in other contexts such as procurement in the private sector.

Luis Jorge Romero, ETSI’s Director General said: "Addressing accessibility is now becoming an important market-driven necessity and ETSI aims to help industry and operators to avoid creating technologies that exclude users from the information society. We also aim to help increase the quality and usability of products and services for everyone, with standardization processes that ensure consideration of 'Design for All' issues in every newly developed standard if appropriate."

Elena Santiago Cid, Director General of CEN and CENELEC, said: "In CEN and CENELEC, we believe that including accessibility requirements in European standards will deliver both societal and economic benefits – by helping to expand the market for accessible products and services. Public authorities are making significant efforts to ensure that their services can be used by all, and they have entrusted the European Standardization Organizations to support these efforts. We hope that this new European Standard will be widely used, not just by the public sector and ICT suppliers, but also by other companies and organizations."

CEN, CENELEC and ETSI have made sure that the accessibility requirements contained in their documents are consistent with other global accessibility requirements. This will help to expand and open-up the international market for accessible ICT products and services.

For more information, read the full press release on the CENCENELEC website.

PHOTO: ICT products and services should be accessible for older persons (© ETSI)

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