“Awareness of accessibility is not achieved only by coercion”


8 August, 2013

“Awareness of accessibility is not achieved only by coercion”

Working for an accessible society implies going beyond a compliance with minimum legal requirements. One of the most effective tools to identify best practices and generate the “multiplier effect” is the coveted certification of accessibility. Adrian Yuste works for CEIS (Tests, Innovation and Services Center), an organization that has worked since 2003 on universal accessibility projects. We interviewed him to find out how to get businesses involved with disability issues. In the image, the EUSKALDUNA Palace of Congresses and Music in Bilbao, which recently received the Certificate of Universal Accessibility from AENOR

When it comes to “accessibility”, we are seeing more and more references to the UNE 170001 Standard. What is it and what are its implications?

The UNE 170001 STANDARD cannot be fully understood without the DALCO criteria: technical requirements which ensure that Deambulating, Apprehension, Localization and Communication (DALCO) activities can be performed by everyone, in any environment and situation with the greatest possible autonomy. The UNE 170001 NORM is a voluntary standard that adds value to organizations that develop their accessibility projects based on these criteria. It is becoming widely used both to analyze the accessibility of an environment and to propose improvements. The starting point is ensuring legal requirements are met.

What is a Universal Accessibility Management System?

This type of system arises from the need to incorporate the concept of Universal Accessibility into the various processes of companies and organizations: in their relationships with customers, their business strategies, in the use of ICT, in service delivery … In short, in their “day to day”, making sure the needs of people with disabilities are taken into account. An Accessibility Management System is defined as “a set of interrelated elements which interact in order to control an organization with regard to accessibility”.

AENOR’s voluntary certification scheme for universal accessibility contemplates adopting the UNE 170001-2 Standard as a model for the accessibility Management System. Organizations seeking to be leaders in accessibility can gain public recognition based on the objective verification of the Standard and on obtaining independent certification.

Should full team be commited to working for accessibility? Is this system adapted  for each organization?

The UNE 170001-2 Standard’s approach is unique because Universal Accessibility is considered a crosscutting element. The fundamental principle of any management system is management’s commitment to improving processes. The fact that organizations define objectives in relation to accessibility is a clear example of commitment at all levels: maintenance and improvement of buildings and environments, training and motivation of employees, collaboration in joint projects, including accessibility criteria in evacuation plans, providing complete, accurate and current information about accessibility conditions, etc….

From the “normative pattern”, in CEIS we collaborate in the design and implementation of the UNE 170001-2 Standard in all types of organizations. Bearing in mind the uniqueness of each entity is essential: their different needs and those of their clients and users, their size and structure, “accessible chains” and processes, etc. In addition, we must take into account that the concept of universal accessibility is inextricably linked to other concepts: Quality, Comfort and Security.

What is more effective for raising awareness, applauding good practices or denouncing acts of exclusion?

Although denouncement, which should be used in case of breach of legal requirements, is an option, social awareness of the rights of people with disabilities is not achieved by applying only coercive strategies. The dissemination of voluntary initiatives developed by engaged organizations, granting awards (Queen Sofía Universal Accessibility of Municipalities, Telefónica’s Hability Awards, the Discapnet Awards,), independent and rigorous certification (AENOR ER), campaigns to raise public awareness … are all effective tools to highlight best practices and to generate a multiplier effect, encouraging other public and private companies to work towards a society for everyone.