New CEN standard: EN 17161:2019 on Accessibility 

Each individual user has their own profile of needs, characteristics, capabilities, and preferences. This fact needs to be taken into account when developing mainstream products and services. In particular, to ensure access for persons with disabilities on equal basis with others accessibility of products and services is essential.  A Design for All approach acknowledges these variations and aims at meeting their requirements to the greatest extent possible in order to achieve accessible products and services.

In this context, the recently published European Standard EN 17161:2019 ‘Design for All - Accessibility following a Design for All approach in products, goods and services - Extending the range of users’ aims to help organisations align with a consistent approach to address accessibility for persons with disabilities. It specifies requirements that can enable an organisation to design, develop and provide products, goods and services that can be accessed, understood and used by the widest range of users including persons with disabilities.

This standard is the result of the European Commission Standardization Request M/473 to include ‘Design For All’ in relevant standardization initiatives.

The requirements set out in this standard are generic and are intended to be applicable to all relevant parts of all organisations, regardless of type, size or product(s), good(s) or service(s) provided.

Figure 1 — Integrating a Design for All approach into the continuous processes for design, development and provision of products, goods and services


Figure 1 shows, through concentric circles, the interrelations between the processes, procedures and activities foreseen by this standard to achieve accessibility outcomes based on the application of a Design for All approach.

This European Standard EN 17161 defines the requirements in a way that is consistent with organisational planning and process management, i.e.:

  • Understanding the context of the organisation, the needs and expectations of interested parties, ensuring the inclusion of  people with disabilities, and the integration of a Design for All approach within established systems and processes;
  • Leadership, policy and responsibilities in support of a Design for All approach in order to ensure achievement of accessibility outcomes;
  • The planning of Design for All objectives and how to achieve them;
  • Organising the support and other resources, including people and information needed to implement a Design for All approach to obtain accessible results;
  • Operational processes related to meeting users’ requirements, including persons with disabilities, and developing accessible products and services across the entire end-to-end chain, in accordance with the Design for All approach;
  • Processes to monitor, measure, analyse and evaluate the effectiveness and correctness of the Design for All approach and its accessibility outcomes;
  • The continuous improvement of the Design for All approach and accessibility.

EN 17161 can help organisations align with a consistent approach to address accessibility across a range of applications. In particular, the standard enables organisations to address "Accessibility" as set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The benefits deriving to organisations from implementing this standard are multifold. Accessibility can maximize the range of potential users of products, goods and services. It has also a huge social value, as it can help increase the proportion of the population able to participate fully and independently in society.

Pointed out by James Hubbard, Convenor for EN 17161: “As we work together toward achieving a more equitable society, it has been a privilege to have participated in standardising an approach that advances accessibility and usability for all, to better inform decisions, on the world we design.”

EN 17161 has been developed by the CEN – CENELEC Joint Technical Committee 12 (CEN/CLC/JTC 12) – ‘Design for All’, whose Secretariat is held by NEN, the Dutch National Standardization Body with the financial support of the European Commission.

For more information, please contact Inmaculada Placencia-Porrero at the European Commission and Claire Dalier at CCMC.