It is a basic consumer right to have access to products and services. Discrimination exists if older people and people with disabilities cannot use today’s mainstream consumer products and services. ANEC believes that standards are a suitable tool to overcome this discrimination if Design for All (DfA) principles are applied. Design for All means designing mainstream products and services so that as many people as possible can use them, regardless of age or ability.

The ANEC Accessibility Working Group unites experts from both the consumer movement and organisations representing older people and persons with disabilities. Its work is based on the ANEC Policy Statement on Design for All.

Work areas

1) Safety and Usability of products and services for older people and people with disabilities

For several years now, ANEC has lobbied for the use of standards in order to enhance the safety and usability of products and services for older people and people with disabilities. If standards for mainstream products and services do not meet the requirements of all consumers, it means that many products and services cannot be used by a large part of the population, despite the current demographic trends in Europe.

As a result of lobbying by ANEC, several working groups focusing on accessibility of product and services standards have been set up such as CENELEC TC 61 WG 4 ‘Safety of household appliances by vulnerable people’, CEN/BT/WG 213 ‘Strategic Advisory Group on Accessibility (SAGA)’ and ISO/IEC JTAG for the revision of ISO/IEC Guide 71.

ISO/IEC Guide 71

ANEC contributed to the revision of ISO/IEC Guide 71 ‘Guide for addressing accessibility in Standards', published in December 2014 by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The publication of the revised Guide 71 was accompanied by a policy statement from IEC, ISO & ITU on standardisation and accessibility. Both documents are available on the ISO website.

The document outlines the developments in thinking (around design, and accessibility itself) since publication of the previous version in 2001. It goes on to discuss the various approaches to accessibility in more detail, acknowledging that there is no single definition in current use worldwide.

In 2015, on the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities celebrated on 3 December, ANEC published guidance on the use of ISO/IEC Guide 71:2014 and CEN-CENELEC Guide 6:2014 “Guide for addressing accessibility in standards”.

Reflecting vulnerable consumers’ needs in EU policies

ANEC is also working to build a momentum within the European Institutions to put the needs of vulnerable consumers (children, persons with disabilities and older people) at the centre of EU policies. Based on the position paper we issued in December 2011, we influenced the European Parliament Report on Vulnerable Consumers adopted in May 2012 and the European Commission Communication, “Consumer Agenda”.

On 7 February 2013, the European Consumer Consultative Group (ECCG) approved an ECCG Opinion on consumers and vulnerability, drafted by ANEC and BEUC based on ANEC’s position paper on Vulnerable Consumers of December 2011. The aim of the Opinion is to provide a better understanding and increased consideration for all consumers’ needs so as to develop an inclusive and targeted policy approach by the European Commission, and in particular in their response to the European Parliament Resolution on a strategy for strengthening the rights of vulnerable consumers of May 2012.

In February 2014, the Parliament and Council adopted several product safety directives under revision (“recast”) such as the Low Voltage Directive and the Lifts Directive to align them to the New Legislative Framework (NLF). ANEC lobbied for the concept of foreseeable use to be included in the legislation in order to have the needs of all consumers taken into account. We believe consumers can be effectively protected only if their (foreseeable) behaviours are duly taken into account by manufacturers when designing products. MEPs and Member States took on board our call to consider real consumer behaviour when setting safety requirements. We also welcomed the need for standards supporting the Low Voltage Directive to respect the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

In April 2014, the revised R&TTE Directive, now called Radio Equipment Directive (RED) was published in the Official Journal of the European Union, after the agreement of the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. The concept of “foreseeable use” must be taken into account for conformity assessment, as proposed by ANEC, to protect vulnerable consumers.

In February 2014, the final draft of a new Directive on Public Procurement was adopted by the co-legislators. The new rules that we supported will require all public authorities to include accessibility requirements in their tenders when possible. These new provisions should set the legal basis for safety and accessibility standards to meet the needs of all consumers.

The 3rd European Standardisation Summit, held on 11 June 2014 in Istanbul, was dedicated to the theme of how standardisation can support the silver economy. To mark the event, ANEC published the Position paper ‘Wiser standards for an ageing world’.

On the eve of the 2014 elections to the European Parliament, ANEC published a position paper on the accessibility of voting, accompanied by a press release. We believe that modern solutions, using standards, should be used to help all voters exercise their democratic choice.

ANEC contribution to the EC proposal for a European Accessibility Act

The European Commission published on 2 December 2015 the long-awaited proposal for a directive on accessibility requirements for certain products and services (referred to as the European Accessibility Act or EAA). For many years, ANEC has been pressing for regulatory action to increase access to everyday products and services for consumers of all ages and abilities. Hence, in its press release, ANEC welcomed the European Commission’s proposal to facilitate the accessibility of products and services through standards.

In February 2016, ANEC submitted preliminary comments on the proposed directive, in response to a consultation launched by the Commission. In September 2017, the European Parliament adopted the EAA proposal. The legislative process now continues with the ‘trilogues’ among the European institutions (European Parliament, Council and Commission).

ANEC is collaborating closely with partner organisations from the disability movement.

2) Access and usability of the built environment

person in wheelchair entering an accessible building

ANEC welcomed the new ISO standard on access to the built environment, ISO 21542 “Building Construction – Accessibility and usability of the built environment”, published in February 2012. Since work started in 2005, ANEC contributed to elaboration of ISO 21542, the purpose of which is to define how the built environment should be designed, constructed and managed in order for people to have independent means of both access and egress, irrespective of their ages or abilities. ANEC was able to ensure the standard would not replace national standards that require higher levels of accessibility. In 2017, ISO TC 59 started to revise ISO 21542, in line with the ANEC position. ANEC participates in the revision of the standard, bearing in mind that within Mandate M/420, ISO 21542 is recommended as the basic accessibility standard for the built environment. At the end of 2016, the second phase of M/420 on accessibility requirements for public procurement in the built environment started. ANEC is a Project Leader of the team developing the standards.

The deliverables of the second phase of M/420 comprise:

  • A European Standard at the level of common functional requirements that contains a set of functional European accessibility requirements of the built environment to be used as either technical specifications or as criteria for awarding public contracts (in the sense of the Public Procurement Directives) (D1);

  • A Technical Report describing technical performance criteria to be able to fulfill the above mentioned functional accessibility requirements (D2);

  • A Technical Report containing reference documents needed to assess conformity in the development of standards on basic functional requirements and minimum technical specifications for built environment elements.

3) Access to Electronic Communications by older people and people with disabilities

Due to the enormous impact of the Information Society on consumers’ everyday lives, it is vital for Electronic Communications to be accessible for all. The ANEC Accessibility WG’s aim is that regulations and standards ensure adequate levels of safety and accessibility for all. This horizontal issue is a common priority of the Accessibility and Digital Society WGs.

4) Horizontal Advice

Mainstreaming Design for All principles within and outside ANEC is also a priority for the ANEC Accessibility Working Group. Input on standardisation activities that are related to accessibility issues addressed by the other ANEC Working Groups is provided. As an example, collaboration with the ANEC Domestic Appliances (DOMAP) WG on the exclusion clause issues has proven to be very effective (see section below).

As to collaboration with disability organisations, in June 2008, ANEC signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the European Disability Forum (EDF) for three years. Building on the long-standing collaboration between the ANEC Accessibility WG and EDF, the EDF Executive Committee and the ANEC Steering Committee agreed to join forces in order to achieve a high level of safety and accessibility for consumers of all ages and abilities. Against the background of the high-level accessibility has reach on the policy and standardisation agendas, ANEC is proud of the results achieved and looks forward to future collaboration with EDF and its partners.

Related European and international references

  • ISO/IEC Policy Statement: ’Addressing the needs of older persons and people with disabilities’.
  • ISO/IEC Guide 71: This document gives general guidance to standards writers on the different human abilities, which they need to consider when writing standards.
  • CEN-CENELEC Guide 6: Guidance document to standards writers on how to take into account the different human abilities when drafting standards. European version of ISO/IEC Guide 71.
  • EC Mandate M/273, ’Design for All and assistive technology in information society standardisation’.
  • EC Mandate M/283, Guidance document in the field of safety and usability of products by people with special needs.
  • EC Mandate M/376, ’European accessibility requirements for public procurement of products and services in the ICT domain’. The standard EN 301 549 and technical reports are available on the ETSI website.
  • EC Mandate M/420, ’European accessibility requirements for public procurement in the built environment'.
  • EC Mandate M/473 Standardization Mandate to include Design for All in relevant standardization activities.

Furthermore, a close link between research projects and standardisation should be ensured in order to gather scientific evidence to support the application of Design for All principles from the very beginning of product design.

Activities in the European & international standards bodies

ANEC is represented in:

  • CEN TC 122/ ISO TC 159 ‘Ergonomics’
  • CEN/BT/WG 213 ‘Strategic Advisory Group on Accessibility (SAGA)’
  • CEN TC 293/ISO TC 173 ‘Assistive products for people with disabilities’
  • ISO TC 173 WG 10 ‘Assistive products for cognitive disabilities’
  • CEN TC 10 ‘Lifts, escalators and moving walks’
  • CEN TC 10 WG 6 'Fire related issues'
  • CEN TC 10 WG 7 'Accessibility to lifts for persons including persons with disability'
  • CEN TC 10 WG 8 'Stairlifts and vertical lifting platforms for persons with impaired mobility'
  • CEN TC 224 WG 6 'User Interface'
  • CEN TC 431 WG 2 ‘Service chain for social care alarms’
  • CEN TC 449 ‘Quality of care for elderly people in ordinary or residential care facilities’
  • CEN TC 452 'Assistance Dogs' and WG 1 'Terminology'
  • CENELEC TC 61 WG 4 'Safety of household appliances for vulnerable people'
  • CENELEC TC 62 WG 1 ‘Medical beds for children’
  • CEN-CENELEC-ETSI JWG 'eAccessibility under M/376'
  • CEN/CENELEC JTC 11 'Accessibility in the built environment'
  • CEN-CENELEC JTC 12 'Design for All'
  • ISO TC 59 SC 16 'Access to the built environment'
  • ISO/TC 59/SC 16/WG 1 ‘Accessibility and usability of the built environment’ and:

TG 2 References: Updating of references

TG 3 Exceptional considerations (developing countries and existing buildings)

TG 4 Fire safety for all

TG 5 Visual impairments (LRV, TWSI)

TG 6 Hearing impairments

TG 7 Ramps

TG 9 General: Improvement of the introduction or general design considerations (explanation on the concept of accessibility, use of figures, etc.)

TG 10 Editorial: Misprints and errors

TG 11 Lifts

  • ISO TC 228 WG 14 ‘Accessible Tourism’
  • ETSI TC 'Human Factors'

News and recent success stories

Public Sector Bodies' websites and apps to be accessible for all!

person using assistive technology for the blind and visually impairedOn 26 October 2016, ANEC welcomed the adoption by the European Parliament of a Directive on the accessibility of Public Sector Bodies’ websites and apps, which aims to ensure access to on-line public services to all consumers, regardless of their age or ability. The Parliament, in agreement with the Council, made significant improvements to the original Commission proposal issued in 2012, in terms of the websites covered and enforcement provisions, as well as the inclusion of access from a handheld mobile device and mobile apps. These improvements are largely in line with ANEC’s position. See our press release.

The adoption of the directive ends several years of intensive work by ANEC and its partners in the disability movement in a common campaign for mandatory web-accessibility legislation.

“80 million people with disabilities, and 150 million people aged over 50, are among the many consumers who will benefit from this legislation”, remarked ANEC Secretary-General, Stephen Russell.

ANEC will participate in related standardisation activities.

To advise the European Commission in execution of its implementing powers, a Committee and Expert Group (‘WADEX’) comprised of Member States was set up. In addition, a WADEX sub-group of stakeholders was also created. An expert, nominated by ANEC with the European Disability Forum (EDF), European Blind Union (EBU) and AGE Platform Europe, represents the organisations in the stakeholder sub-group.

Are household appliances really safe for all consumers?

Consumers expect domestic appliances to be safe to use, for themselves, their children and the older members of their families. The aim of regulators, as expressed in the European Directives, is to achieve a high level of health and safety protection for all consumers. However, in case of electrical products, these principles were undermined by the EN 60335 series of standards used to support them as they did not "… in general take into account the use of appliances by young children or infirm persons without supervision", the so-called “Exclusion Clause”.

Why is this discriminatory?
Child using a domestic appliance

The EN 60335 series of standard was written in the social and educational context where it was taken for granted that children and “infirm people” typically did not use the products covered by its scope without supervision. ANEC believed this to be discriminatory and asked for the deletion of this exclusion clause. Moreover, manufacturers and standards makers nowadays have the technical knowledge to review the design of products and their standards, to ensure that they are safe for use by all consumers, including children, older persons and persons with disability.

What is ANEC doing?

Since 2005, ANEC has led a campaign to revise the standards. In April 2010, the first six revised Parts 2 of EN 60335, largely based on ANEC’s proposals, were published. This was a huge achievement for ANEC and for the consumer movement. Since then, CENELEC concluded the revision of other Parts 2 to the EN 60335 series, based on ANEC’s proposal covering a particular appliance and embracing vulnerable consumers’ needs. About 60 standards have been revised to make them take into account the safety needs of vulnerable consumers.

ANEC and Consumers International continue their joint efforts to remove the exclusion clause by proposing improvements to different Parts 2 of EN 60335 and IEC 60335, as well as on lower surface temperature limits in the IEC 60335 series.

To read more about ANEC’s achievements in different sectors please visit our ‘Success stories’ web page.


To access position papers related to Accessibility please click the following link: Position papers.