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IEC Standards for accessibility
IEC Standards help people with disabilities (public domain photo)

People with disabilities are never far from the minds of the many experts in the IEC who work all year round to produce international standards to help these vulnerable groups access technology, enabling them to overcome the barriers they encounter in their everyday lives. Another big part of IEC work is to make sure that all the electronic equipment can be used safely and securely by people with disabilities.

The IEC formed a systems committee, IEC SyC AAL, whose remit is, among other things, to foster standardization to enable usability and accessibility of active assisted living (AAL) systems and services. AAL services can be defined as systems which help people with disabilities to live independently. These include alarms, wearable monitoring devices, teleconferencing tools, assistive robots, automated air conditioning and lighting systems, to name but a few.

SyC AAL has published three publications targeted at health funders, whether private or public, and manufacturers of AAL equipment. The first one is a technical specification, IEC TS 63134, which lists use cases of AAL services. “The document inventories near to fifty use cases and describes around 11 in detail. We were extremely careful to propose examples that are representative. The TS also establishes the terminology used throughout our publications,” explains Paul Boissoneault, one of the SyC AAL experts much involved in the development of the documents.

The two other publications are standards: the first one, IEC 63234-1, establishes a framework for the economic evaluation of AAL services, while the second, IEC 63234-2, looks specifically at the monitoring of patients with chronic diseases.

“AAL products and services have never been more relevant than now, as we adapt to new ways of living and working in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, lockdown safety measures limited personal movement and access to services which would normally be delivered outside the home. As a result, companies are developing more and more products and services that can be used inside the homes,” explains the Chair of SyC AAL, Ulrike Haltrich.

She also chairs an important Technical Committee, IEC TC 100, which prepares standards for audio, video and multimedia systems. The TC established a technical area working group specifically dedicated to developing standards for AAL, notably for wearable electronic devices and specific user interfaces.

Safety in the home

IEC TC 59 prepares performance standards for household appliances. It has been working on accessibility standards for several years largely at the behest of consumer representatives inside the IEC, notably from the German Institute for Standardization (DIN) Consumer Council.

IEC 63008 contains test procedures and requirements to improve the accessibility of household appliances for people with disabilities. These test requirements are described independently from the device. This means that they can apply to a wide range of household appliances, including washing machines as well as smaller items, such as egg-cookers or electric kettles. They concern control elements, for instance door handles and drawers on washing machines, push buttons on microwave ovens or vacuum cleaners and so on.

These are only a few examples of the ways IEC Standards can help people with disabilities. In doing so they contribute significantly to UN Sustainable Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.


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