It is important to create concrete demands on how to implement the principle of accessibility in various areas, such as transport, vending machines, buildings and services. In a standard, only the very concrete, functional requirements apply. It is also important to remember that standards do not impose requirements on the use of certain technologies or solutions - it is a requirement for function - which solution one chooses to meet the requirement may vary.
In addition, standardization is important because it includes everyone involved in the area of the Technical Committee that develops the standard. It is only when you reach agreement and consensus among all committee members that the standard is approved. It is an important democratic principle for standardization and distinguishes the working method from, for example, guidelines from the public sector created by experts and bureaucrats, without any systematic participation by users - for example disability organizations - in the process.
In Europe, both within the EU and in the EES countries, it is currently even more important to work with standardization because the EU has commissioned the standardization bodies CEN, CENELEC and ETSI to support the new EU legislation on accessibility. It is possible to influence the work both at national and European level.
The work itself is the same in all countries, but in Norway it is free to participate, which means that we can ensure that interest groups participate actively. In other countries, for example Sweden, you pay participatory fees, which risks excluding groups that do not have resources.
In the area of accessibility, Norway has been able to invest heavily in accessibility and universal design with no less than 15 national standards. Among other things, we have had a great focus on services.
Another important difference is how to look at developing national and international standards. There are mainly three different models:
Either one begins in the international perspective, hoping to be able to influence the standard in dialogue with other countries. This option can make it more difficult to get broad national participation.
Or you start with a national standard that you then try to "sell in" to the European or international level. The problem with this model is that a national standard often reflects national conditions, and these can differ between countries, which means that the end result doesn’t always meet the expectations.
The third method is the one chosen by Norway. We develop national standards with broad participation and inform other countries about what is going on. We ensure that the standard is translated into English, which means that other countries can choose to implement it or that it can form the basis for a European or international standard. Within the EU, Norway is known for its many standards in universal design.
The last difference between Norway and other counties is that we use the concept of universal design in its original meaning, namely that everyone, as far as possible, should be able to use the main solution. Within the EU, the word accessibility has gained similar significance. This means a risk of confusion of concepts that affects how the UN Convention on Human Rights for persons with disabilities is interpreted.
It is still the case that most people do not understand that universal design is good for everyone. The fact that a pregnant woman, a parent with a pram, an elderly person or a young person with heavy luggage has the same pleasure from a universally designed society as a person in a wheelchair.
Instead, you focus on costs and claim that it is about "expensive special solutions". Strong forces want to "simplify" the legislation in the area, which often means that the requirements are weakened both in terms of quantity and quality. Therefore, we must repeat and emphasize once again that universal design is necessary for some but good for everyone. And absolutely crucial to ensure equal access to products and services.
I see it positively, the Norwegian regulatory framework reflects how the IT turnover looked like in 2009, even though the regulation came into force only in 2013. It refers to 10 standards, of which 3 are not standards without technical reports and the others focus on ergonomics. An expanded and updated law that also includes mobile applications is necessary. On the other hand, today's Norwegian law applies to both the public and private sectors.
I hope that will also be the case when we implement the European Web Accessibility Directivre in 2019.
I also hope that the revised legislation will refer to more updated standards. For individuals, it is positive that you get equal access to all web sites regardless of country borders!