Involving people with disabilities in the standardisation process

Chapter 4 - Meetings

For disabled people to fully participate in a meeting requires careful planning. Firstly the venue has to be accessible. This could require that the venue can be reached by public transport, and that the disabled person can easily get to the correct building from the bus stop or train station. Good signage can alleviate the problem for partially sighted visitors.

For physically disabled persons, the ability to get from a car, taxi or public transport to and into the building without going up or down steps is usually essential. Doors should be wide enough to comfortably accommodate the width of a wheelchair and should be easy to open from a wheelchair. Also wheelchair users require appropriate toilets on the same floor as the meeting room.

In the meeting room, there should be good illumination and a hearing aid loop. Good acoustics and low ambient noise (air conditioning or passing traffic) will help many people with a mild or moderate hearing impairment.

Some deaf people need to have real-time text display (such as Palantype). In these systems a skilled transcriber inputs on a chording keyboard with the output on a computer display which can be projected on a screen. Since this is a phonetic system, words can be misspelt; this is particularly noticeable with acronyms and foreign names (providing the transcriber in advance with a list of acronyms likely to be used in the meeting can alleviate the problem). The transcriber will need a break at regular intervals – typically for 5 minutes once an hour. One benefit of such transcription is that there is a verbatim transcript of everything said at the meeting which can be easily converted into a Word file. The disadvantage is the cost and scarcity of operators since most standards committees will have no budget for such extended support.

Some deaf people require a sign language interpreter or lip-speaker so that they can contribute to the meeting. For other than a very short meeting, two interpreters will be required. It is wise to book interpreters well in advance of the meeting. The official language of most international and European meetings is usually English.

An elderly man using an ATM

At the start of the meeting, it is helpful to go round the table and everyone give their name and affiliation. Speakers should be asked to describe the content of any visual presentation to help people who are blind or partially sighted.

For many small disability organisations the cost of travelling to the meeting can be a problem. There are some sources of funding available from national governments and consumer organisations, but only for certain types of member.

ISO meetings are sequentially held in differing countries. This enables experts who are unable to meet the costs of international travel to occasionally attend a meeting in their own country. For disabled experts, facilities can usually be provided in most developed countries, but for less wealthy countries those facilities may not always be available.

Another problem is that relatively few disabled people are familiar with the standardisation process. Therefore, some will need appropriate training. However, this is also the case for many experts on standards committees, and some of the standards bodies do provide training of various types.

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