Standards Make the World Accessible for All

Mr. Charles Elekenge, Direcor General TBS

October 14 every year is World Standards Day. The day honours the efforts of the thousands of experts who develop voluntary standards within standards development organizations such as the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The aim of the World Standards Day is to raise awareness among regulators, industry and consumers as to the importance of standardization to the global economy.

October 14 was specifically chosen to mark the date, in 1946, when delegates from 25 countries first gathered in London and decided to create an international organization focused on facilitating standardization. Even though ISO was formed one year later, it wasn’t until 1970 that the first World Standards Day was celebrated.

Each year, ISO - a network of the national standards institutes of 163 countries, Tanzania included - determines a theme based on a current aspect of standardization. This year’s theme is ‘‘Standards make the world accessible for all’‘.

At least 650 million people globally are affected by some kind of disability. In Tanzania, according to World Health Organization’s formula of 1 in 10 being persons with disabilities, Tanzania with a population of around 40 million is estimated to have around four million people with disabilities, including the physically impaired, visually impaired, hearing impaired, intellectually impaired, multiply impaired and others.

As the world population ages and people with disabilities demand equal access to social, political and economic life, accessibility increasingly becomes an issue. For people with disabilities, as well as for the able-bodied, access to information and communication is as important as is the ability to use an elevator, enter a building, travel, or safely turn on and use a device.

But accessibility is not only an issue for the elderly or disabled. Anybody at any stage in life can experience temporarily reduced accessibility. When that happens, simple, everyday activities can become very complicated. Standards give manufacturers and service providers the guidelines on how to design products accessible for all.
-  A well designed wheelchair ramp conforming to a standard may turn out to be really useful for a new mother with a baby carriage
-  A device with a large switch may make things easier for someone with an injured hand
-  A sensor stopping doors from closing can prevent accidents when a back injury impairs movement
-  The little dot on the number 5 on a phone keypad makes it easier to find numbers -
a boon in the first days after an eye operation.

Standards facilitate everybody’s access to products, structures and services. They include safety considerations, ergonomics and harmonized test methods all geared towards increasing accessibility. Standards also provide a platform for the dissemination of technological innovations both in developed and developing countries. They help markets to grow faster and increase global trade.

Tanzania Bureau of Standards - the statutory National Standards Body for Tanzania coordinates stakeholders work in formulating national standards in all sectors. It offers a system of standardization that helps designers, manufacturers and policy makers to make the world safer and more accessible for all, today and tomorrow.

Currently, a number of standards related to facilitating accessibility of services and daily activities have already been formulated worldwide and a lot more are at various stages of finalization. They include standards for buildings and domestic appliances.

People with disabilities have the right and equal opportunity to enjoy the same services from the society as the able-bodied. Their participation in the life of the community must target on reduction or elimination of dependency. And one aspect of dependency is on accessibility. For this, standards have a contribution to give.

As we commemorate standards, we call upon designers, manufacturers, policy makers and the general public to comply with standards to ensure accessibility for all.