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Towards the 1st European Standard on Accessibility of the Built Environment

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On the 5th of June, different stakeholders such as legislators and the representatives of people with disabilities, as well as engineers and architects, had the opportunity to learn more about the works on standardisation being developed by the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) and the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation (CENELEC), through an open workshop on the European Commission mandate M/420 and prEN 17210 which concern the functional requirements of Accessibility and the usability of the built environment. 

During this workshop, Fernando Machicado, Secretary of CEN-CENELEC, Normalizacion Espanola, presented the three documents on standardisation. Document prEN 17210, dealing with the accessibility and usability of the built environment and the required associated functions, is considered a stand-alone document. Alongside it, document TR1 deals with technical performance criteria and specifications. In other words, these are the recommendations for a set of values or a range of technical values for minimal acceptable performance. As for the TR2 document, it is at the conformity assessment level that helps to evaluate how accessibility should be assessed at all stages. These two TR documents are complementary to the EN document, and all of the concerned documents are voluntary. 

The workshop also presented an opportunity to discuss the usefulness of the European standard for environmental accessibility. Marie Denninghaus, Policy Coordinator at the European Disability Forum, considered the standardisation of accessibility as a positive first step given the obstacles that currently persist, but preferred European legislation in this area. The European Accessibility Act does not directly refer to the prEN 17210 document but it may form a basis for a possible harmonised standard implementing the European Accessibility Act.

Gonçalo Ascensao, CEN-CENELEC, Customer Service Specialist for ‘manufacturing’, explained that a single European standard (EN) will replace 34 different national standards in Europe. Hence, it presents an advantage that makes it possible to facilitate access to a market of 600 million European inhabitants if the document is supported.

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