New European standard on Design for All

Yet another European standard is published. This usually means long, technical and complicated texts to read. But the EN17161 is slightly different. It is a standard which aims to help organisations understand the Design for All approach. It doesn’t contain any technical or normative requirements, but a lot of valuable recommendations.

Design for All is a concept built on the fact that abilities among users vary between individuals, with situations and over time. When you manage to build this concept into the way your organisation is operating, the result will be accessible products and services. So instead of starting with the technical specifications for accessibility, you can make sure the internal processes take human diversity into account. That way, accessibility is an outcome of the Design for All approach.

The idea as such is not new; Funka and many other organisations have been using the Design for All concept for decades. But the standard can be very useful to spread these insights, including an important focus on user involvement and hands-on recommendations.

I especially like the wording ‘access, understand and use’, which is introduced in the EN17161, says Susanna Laurin, Chief Research & Innovation Officer at Funka. It’s a neat way to explain something quite complex.

The standard isn’t normative and has no direct connection to regulations. But the standard can help companies who are new to the topic to organise their internal work in a better way, leading to improved accessibility. This is, of course, very interesting, not least because of the European Accessibility Act, covering specific products and services.

EN17161 covers the whole process where organisations design, develop and provide products, goods and services. It’s aimed at mainstream products and written in a generic way, applicable to all kinds of organisations.

The standard can be used as a complement to internal organisational processes. The chapters cover, among other things:

  • Understanding needs and expectations
  • Leadership and responsibilities
  • Planning, organisation and operational processes
  • Monitor, analysis and improvements
Implementing the Design for All concept everywhere, from management to production, is a big step. I hope the EN17161 can serve as inspiration! says Susanna Laurin.

”Design for All – Accessibility following a Design for All approach in products, goods and services – Extending the range of users.” That is the formal name of the EN17161. The standard is the result of the Mandate 473 from the European Commission, aiming at including accessibility following a Design for All approach in relevant standardization activities for products, goods and services.

About the EN17161 at the CEN/CENELEC website, opens in new window


Susanna Laurin

Title: Chief Research and Innovation Officer (Susanna Laurin)

+46 8 555 770 61 (Susanna Laurin)