An international perspective on accessibility

Suddenly, a lot is happening all at once. Sometimes, you get the feeling that the entire field of accessibility is at a complete standstill. The latest report from the Swedish governing body on accessibility, the Swedish Agency for Participation, tells us that the status on accessibility is moving backwards (!).

But in many ways, things are moving faster than ever before. More and more countries are ratifying the UN convention on human rights for persons with disabilities. In May, Finland managed to finalize their process – so congratulations to our neighbors!

This June, I was invited to an international hearing on ICT accessibility and public procurement at the US Access Board in Washington, which was a very interesting experience. The US Access Board is an independent federal agency that promotes equality for persons with disabilities through creating guidelines and standards for accessibility.

The exchange of knowledge and experience

The international UN organization G3ict and the international umbrella organization for disability associations, International Disability Association, invited leading experts to two days of knowledge sharing and discussion on topics like procurement, legal frameworks and the implementation of accessibility requirements in different parts of the world.

My role was to describe the European situation and to contribute with practical and hands on experience from the industry. Most of the delegates were senior public servants and professionals working with policy, and the attendance of developing countries made the days even more interesting.

The idea is that delegates from, for example Africa, should’nt have to re-invent the wheel, but rather use the best examples from Europe and the US and thereby get a shortcut to a more inclusive society. Most of us are in agreement that procurement and standardization is key to accessibility. But how effective are procurement laws in countries affected by everything from corruption to open war?

I think all participants left with broadened horizons – and new friends. For Funka, the hearing has already resulted in invitations to new projects and assignments.

It ’s always interesting to come to the US with a European perspective and realise how different we are, when it comes to accessibility. A general reflection is that the gulf between policy and the daily lives of persons with disabilities is vast. That’s no news, but it gets even clearer in these kinds of situations.

U.S. Access Board, opens in new window

Susanna Laurin
CEO, Funka