Health aid tool

Accessibility of systems for living independently

A new work item for a new standard on "Accessibility of systems for living independently" is on vote in the European committee on assistive products. The project is led by Norway.

New working group on accessibility

A new working group on accessibility was established in 2019 in the European committee on assistive products (CEN/TC 293, WG 12 Accessibility). The group is led by Mr. Rudolph Brynn and Standards Norway holds the secretariat.

A new standard under development

The working group has made a draft description of the content in the new standard.

The draft title of the standard is "Accessible systems for living independently - Guidelines and recommendations".

Early in the process, we discussed the use of «welfare technology» in the standard. As this term is not common or easy to translate into national languages accross Europe, the group decided to use "systems for living independently" instead.

What will the standard cover?

The project description is now on vote for approval and comments amongst committee members. It is now important to flag/notify if European members have comments on the scope: What should the standard cover? And what should be outside the scope?

The draft scope and description of the standard is now:

This document presents requirements and recommendations to ensure the accessibility of systems for living independently. This includes equal access to technology and other solutions for all users, notwithstanding their ability and knowledge and to ensure the opportunity to use the same appliances as others.

Systems for living independently includes technological solutions like social care alarms, domestic appliances, medical appliances, and others, to improve participation for persons both at home and in society.

What challenges or problems will the standard solve?

  • The aim of the standard is to ensure the accessibility of systems, including technical solutions for environment control, safety alarms, safety in the household and other technical devises. (kitchen machines are covered by IEC TC 59 WG 11 and IEC TC 61).
  • Users normally move between different places – different rooms, the home, the car, workplace, shops and outdoors – during daytime. This makes great demands to interoperability between the technical solutions, and that they are integrated.
  • The aim of the standard is to ensure that technology is integrated, distributed in the surroundings or integrated in other technology or for instance in furniture (sensors in the bed etc.); tailor made for the individual user; give response to the user and her surroundings and capable to adapt to the user’s needs as much as possible. Beside these attributes technical and functional factors to be integrated in such a way that consideration is taken to user needs the users’ existing competence and knowledge – an important element of universal design and user participation.
  • Such technology includes quite different issues like user interface, sensor technology, microelectronics, software, the Internet and networking technology, energy, control- and monitoring technology and robotics.

How will the standard support these challenges?

  • Ensuring that technical solutions, including hardware and software are accessible for all, for example hardware for domestic environment control, like remote controls, computers etc., software to follow accessibility requirements
  • Making requirements for accessible user product information and instructions (owner manuals) to ensure that they are in an accessible format, easy to read and do not require special technical competence.

Who will be the main users of the standard?

  • Users, in particular those with mobility challenges, elderly people, to ensure greater independence through accessible solutions.
  • Service providers, professional carers and service staff
  • Relatives assisting in the use of technical solutions
  • Procurers
  • Installers or private contractors
  • Manufacturers and suppliers
  • Designers for products and services 

What should the standard cover?

  • Requirements to accessibility of independent living systems, divided into types of technology, types of user needs, specifying relevance of accessibility.
  • Requirements to product information and instructions (owner manuals), like easy to read instruction manuals for the technological solutions
  • Requirements to service design involving independent living systems
  • Requirements to procurement including accessibility and user involvement
  • Voice control home automation systems  

Examples of user needs:

  • Users with limited mobility, users with limited reach, users without vocal capabilities, users with learning disabilities, users with dementia.
  • Users without vision need sound-based command possibilities, text-to-sound options and good lighting in places where the technology is placed.
  • Users without vision and users with limited vision need sound-based alarms.
  • Users with limited hearing need visual alarms or vibrating alarms, for instance in beds.
  • Users with limited cognition, dementia and likewise need clear language, use of symbols and images and clear messages for instance from loudspeakers connected to detectors.
  • Users with limited manipulation or strength to operate pill dispensers and other medical equipment.

Case scenarios: Gap analysis between procurers, installers, carers, users and others involved

  • If a procurer has failed to make clear demands in technical specifications in connection to a procurement of e.g. data equipment, mobile apps, and others, the producers of such equipment will fail to ensure that their solutions have multiple choices of operation for users with different abilities. There is a gap between user needs and the procurers’ ability to formulate such needs clearly in the tenders.
  • Electronic home appliances that the user is supposed to install on their own can be inaccessible if the producers has 1) used packaging that is difficult to open, and 2) if the instruction leaflets and manuals are in an inaccessible format, and 3) the installation is complicated for non-expert users. There is a gap between the accessibility of a mainstream off-the-shelf product and the users’ ability to access it.
  • If an outside party is contracted to take care of the installation of the system, (or part of it), then the installers should be trained to ensure that the installation respects principles of Universal Design. For instance, that there is “space and size for approach and use”. Following this principle, the interface that the end user needs to interact with should be installed in such a way that it is possible for the end user to access it. Examples of problems have been smart energy monitors installed too high for people using wheelchairs, and thermostat control panels installed next to the boiler inside a cupboard, where it is impossible to get close enough to monitor or input settings using the touch panel. In both these examples, the installation site chosen was the most convenient from a technician’s perspective, but no attention was paid to the requirements of the end user 

Draft table of content

  1. Scope
  2. Normative references
  3. Terms and definitions
  4. Systems for living independently
  5. Accessible formats for information
  6. Technology to function in emergency situations             
  7. Technology from use by specialists to use by end-users
  8. Connecting requirements for accessible housing and the technology to be installed for dwellers with special needs for adaptation
  9. Technology
  10. Interoperability
  11. Robots
  12. Smart house technology
  13. Communication, information exchange and digital assistants
  14. Positioning and orientation technology
  15. Medical and health related monitoring
  16. Services

Comments to the scope? Would you like to participate in the project?

If you have any comments to what the standard should cover, or if you would like to participate in the development of the standard, please contact your National Standardization body. Contact person at Standards Norway is Merete Holmen Murvold.

Last updated: 2020-08-24