ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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International Guidelines for Elderly and Disabled Now Available in Braille

New York, May 20, 2002

According to the International Eye Foundation, there are nearly 45 million blind and visually impaired people in the world today. In an effort to improve the usability of products, services and environments for this segment of the population working within the international standards arena, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) recently announced the publication of its first ever guidelines in Braille.

Newly accessible for the visually impaired and written to address specialized needs, ISO/IEC Guide 71, Guidelines for standards developers to address the needs of older persons and persons with disabilities, includes information on specific requirements of the elderly and disabled that should be taken into account in standards under development and undergoing revision. Already available in English and French, these guidelines are now available in Braille, an international system of writing or printing wherein combinations of raised dots representing letters and characters are read by touch.

The goals of the guide are to aid in the reduction of intolerance, increase awareness through education and generate user-friendly products aimed to assist the visually impaired. The guide also attempts to facilitate standards development activities that take into consideration the functional limitations associated with the blind.

In recent ISO press release, Tim Hancox, secretary of the ISO/IEC technical advisory group that was put together specifically for this project, explained, "ISO tries to address the needs of society as a whole, including those of older persons and persons with disabilities, in the standards-development process." He added that the Braille version of the guide should be of great value to "many people with a visual impairment" who work as "either manufacturers, designers, service providers or educators," primarily because it is "design accessible." In addition, ISO believes that the guide may also raise awareness about the potential for a wider market of products or services that incorporate accessible design principles for the blind.

Initiated by ISO's Committee on Consumer Policy (COPOLCO), work on Guide 71 began several years ago in response to a request by the Japanese Industrial Standards Committee. ANSI, through its Consumer Interest Council (CIC), furthered this dialogue in 1999 by hosting a COPOLCO workshop on this issue. In recognition of its goal to represent consumers with COPOLCO and other international standards related activities, the CIC fully endorses the Braille version of the ISO/IEC Guide 71 as a model to improve the delivery of standards to persons with disabilities.