"Involving People with Disabilities in the Standardisation Process" - booklet by Dr. John Gill

Dr. John Gill, Chief Scientist of the Royal National Institute for the Blind (and head of the RNIB Scientific Research Unit) has published a booklet titled "Involving People with Disabilities in the Standardisation Process" (there is also a PDF edition here). The booklet is both a good primer on the standardization process in general, the ways in which standardization can impact accessibility, and a discussion of the mechanics of being involved in a standardization effort as a person with a disability (along with notes for those setting up standards meetings on what you should do to enable such participation).

Published this past June, it is also incredibly timely. The issue of involving accessibility expertise and people with disabilities particularly into document standards efforts is gaining particular prominence at the moment. At one end of the spectrum is the OASIS ODF accessibility subcommittee's imminent publication of their Accessibility Guidelines for Implementations of Open Document Format v1.1. On the other is folks like the University of Toronto Adaptive Technology Resource Centre questioning whether OOXML should be accepted as an ISO standard without first undergoing an accessibility review.

I particularly enjoyed the booklet's Chapter 4 - Meetings. The discussion of the careful planning needed for including people with disabilities in a standards meeting - or an advisory committee meeting - have become a way of life for the Telecommunications and Electronic and Information Technology Advisory Committee. In the TEITAC plenary meetings I participate in, we always have a CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) system in place for the deaf participants. In our subcommittee conference calls, we always arrange for U.S. Federal Relay Conference Captioning. One of the rules we follow in both sets of meetings is that we must announce our name and affiliation prior to making our remarks - so that deaf and hard of hearing participants can know who is speaking through their reading the simultaneous transcription. Another rule is that any presentation we give at the plenary meetings must be provided sufficiently in advance of the meeting so that large print and Braille editions can be produced for those who need them. Accessible electronic editions of the presentation materials are posted as quickly as possible to further aid in accessibility as well as being a public record of the meetings.

For anyone considering involving people with disabilities in a standardization process, Dr. Gill's booklet is an excellent overview of the subject, and I highly recommend reading it.

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Peter Korn

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