The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes the basic rights of disabled and older persons and the need to remove any barriers that “may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others”. The European Commission has provided European support to these fundamental rights by issuing in 2005 the standardisation Mandate M/376 on ‘Support of European accessibility requirements for public procurement of products and services in the ICT domain’. The aim of this mandate was to raise awareness of accessibility in the European market and public organizations while fostering interoperability and harmonisation at EU level.
The three European Standards Organizations, CEN (the European Committee for Standardization), CENELEC (the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization) and ETSI (The European Telecommunications Standards Institute), have reacted to phase 2 of this Mandate by establishing a Joint Working Group (JWG) on “eAccessibility” to provide a unified response. During Phase I of Mandate M/376, which finished in 2009, national procurement authorities acknowledged that they lacked the specialist human factors knowledge necessary to include accessibility requirements in invitations to tender for the public procurement of ICT products and services.
In order to tackle this issue, standardisation work during Phase 2 of M/376 will have an objective to fill in the identified gaps with a set of functional accessibility requirements. The expected outcome of this work is a new European Standard that will include the functional accessibility requirements applicable to all ICT products and services, intended to be used for conformity assessment in procurement processes, as well as the development of an electronic toolkit enabling procurers to make use of those harmonized requirements in a procurement process.
The JWG appointed Dr. Matthias Schneider (NOKIA), representing ETSI, as Chairman of the group, with Mrs Cristina Rodriguez-Porrero (Spanish Ministry of Health, Social Affairs and Equality) and Mr Óscar Querol (AFME), representing CEN and CENELEC respectively, as Vice-Chairmen. The secretariat is held by AENOR, the Spanish Association for Standardization and Certification.
Participants of this JWG include national members from CEN and CENELEC, and ETSI members. The European Commission and the European Free Trade Association may also participate. It is foreseen that other stakeholders will be invited to contribute, including representatives of the community of disabled people (e.g. the European Disability Forum and other stakeholders such as ANEC, the European consumer voice in standardization, etc.), as well as international standards organizations and organizations representing other regions of the world.
An ETSI Specialist Task Force (STF) and a CEN Project Team (PT) will develop the deliverables of the Mandate.
The kick-off meeting of the JWG on eAccessibility took place on 15 February 2011 in the CEN-CENELEC Meeting Centre in Brussels. The next meeting is scheduled for 23 June 2011 and will be hosted at the CEN-CENELEC Management Centre in Brussels.