International Standard

Stop Press ! … ISO 21542 on Accessibility-for-All Published !!

2012-03-25:  No news about this momentous development, yet, on the International Design and Disability Networks … (why is that ? – are they all asleep out there ?) … but International Standard  ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility and Usability of the Built Environment’  was finally published by the International Standards Organization (ISO) in December 2011 !   Even ISO, and national standards organizations, have been slow with an official notification.

This International Standard now provides building users, architects, designers, engineers, builders, building owners and managers, manufacturers, policy makers and legislators with the requirements and recommendations to create a Sustainable Built Environment which is Accessible.

The First Edition of ISO 21542, dated 2011-12-15, represents an agreement reached by strong consensus between different countries all over the world … an agreement patiently constructed and pieced together by a small, dedicated international group of Accessibility Experts.  As one of those experts, I am tremendously relieved that this main task has been accomplished … but the process must continue … there are still errors in the document … and the fire safety texts must be expanded.

This is also an agreement which signals that uniform implementation of the main provisions (accessibility-related) in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) can commence across the globe, not just in the developed economic regions.

The purpose of this International Standard is to define how the built environment … in particular, public buildings … should be designed, constructed and managed to enable people to approach, enter, use, egress from and evacuate a building independently, in an equitable and dignified manner and to the greatest extent possible.

Colour image showing an Accessible Fire Evacuation Route Sign. From now on, Building Users should expect that these routes will be Accessible-for-All, throughout their full extent, until they reach a Place of Safety which is remote from the Building. Otherwise, they will be able to find accommodation in a suitable Area of Rescue Assistance along the route. Click to enlarge.
Colour image showing an Accessible Fire Evacuation Route Sign. From now on, Building Users should expect that these routes will be Accessible-for-All, throughout their full extent, until they reach a Place of Safety which is remote from the Building. Otherwise, they will be able to find accommodation in a suitable Area of Rescue Assistance along the route. Click to enlarge.


A new international understanding of ‘Building Accessibility’ is hereby established … ‘Access’ (approach, entry and use) can no longer be divorced from ‘Egress’ (in the normal course of events) and ‘Evacuation’ (in the event of an emergency).

The concept of ‘Access’, in isolation, and the role of the ‘Access Consultant’ are, therefore, outdated and obsolete !   And use of the word ‘Escape’, in any context, is to be firmly and rigorously discouraged !!

The intention of this International Standard is to meet the needs of the majority of people.  This goal is achieved by agreement on minimum standards of accessibility and usability which are generally accepted to accommodate diversities of age and the human condition.


In future … proper emphasis must be placed on Real and Effective Implementation of Accessibility-for-All in the built environment … to meet the needs of real people in all of our communities.

In the past … too many scarce human resources have been diverted into pointless discussions and arguments about accessibility design philosophies.  And, particularly in Europe, we have been far too fond of ‘talk’, instead of ‘action’ !   No more !!


ISO 21542 : 2011  applies to new and existing buildings.

IF this Standard’s requirements and recommendations are taken into consideration during the earliest stages of New Building Design … the costs of providing satisfactory accessibility and usability in a building will be minimal.

Yes, there are problems with improving the accessibility performance of Existing Buildings … just as there are problems, for example, with improving their energy performance.  However … creativity, design flexibility, and an in-depth understanding of the principles of Accessibility-for-All … will ensure that the functional requirements of this Standard are properly met.

Mindful of the  1964 Venice Charter  and other similar international instruments … accessibility must also be facilitated in Existing Buildings of Historical, Architectural and Cultural Importance.  In such cases, it will be necessary for national authorities having jurisdiction to allow some relaxation of the requirements in this International Standard … as well as to proactively recommend appropriate alternative accessibility measures.


This new approach to Accessibility-for-All in the Built Environment … as set down in ISO 21542 … was directly informed by Preamble Paragraph (g) and Articles 9, 10 and 11 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD).

At the time of writing … the UN CRPD has been ratified by the European Union (EU) and 109 Other Countries.

An Important Note for Parties to the Convention which is entirely outside the scope of ISO 21542, and standardization generally … but very relevant to the implementation, for example, of Article 11 at national level in the ratifying Countries and EU Member States …

UN CRPD  Article 12 – Equal Recognition Before The Law

1.   States Parties reaffirm that persons with disabilities have the right to recognition everywhere as persons before the law.

2.   States Parties shall recognize that persons with disabilities enjoy legal capacity on an equal basis with others in all aspects of life.

3.   States Parties shall take appropriate measures to provide access by persons with disabilities to the support they may require in exercising their legal capacity.

4.   States Parties shall ensure that all measures that relate to the exercise of legal capacity provide for appropriate and effective safeguards to prevent abuse in accordance with international human rights law.  Such safeguards shall ensure that measures relating to the exercise of legal capacity respect the rights, will and preferences of the person, are free of conflict of interest and undue influence, are proportional and tailored to the person’s circumstances, apply for the shortest time possible and are subject to regular review by a competent, independent and impartial authority or judicial body.  The safeguards shall be proportional to the degree to which such measures affect the person’s rights and interests.

5.   Subject to the provisions of this article, States Parties shall take all appropriate and effective measures to ensure the equal right of persons with disabilities to own or inherit property, to control their own financial affairs and to have equal access to bank loans, mortgages and other forms of financial credit, and shall ensure that persons with disabilities are not arbitrarily deprived of their property.


ISO 21542 : 2011  is available from the International Standards Organization (ISO) at …

The Official Abstract on the ISO WebSite states …

ISO 21542 : 2011  specifies a range of requirements and recommendations for many of the elements of construction, assemblies, components and fittings which comprise the built environment.  These requirements relate to the constructional aspects of access to buildings, to circulation within buildings, to egress from buildings in the normal course of events and evacuation in the event of an emergency.  It also deals with aspects of accessibility management in buildings.

ISO 21542 : 2011  contains provisions with respect to features in the external environment directly concerned with access to a building or group of buildings from the edge of the relevant site boundary or between such groups of buildings within a common site.  It does not deal with those elements of the external environment, such as public open spaces, whose function is self-contained and unrelated to the use of one specific building, nor does it deal with single-family dwellings, other than those circulation spaces and fittings that are common to two or more such dwellings.




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EU Sustainable vs. Green Public Procurement – Beware !

2010-11-02:  For a long, long time … too long … I have been bleating on about the major and substantial difference between Sustainable Design and Green Design … or ‘Sustainability’ and ‘Green-ness’.  See my previous Posts.

This bores me no end !

HOWEVER … there are some serious implications if this difference is not properly understood … particularly by individuals, groups or organizations attempting to advance the Application of Criteria which address Social and/or Ethical Concerns within, for example, the European Union’s Public Procurement Framework … or the EU’s Construction Product Framework.

The following is a nice little example of exactly what I am talking about … explained by no less an authority than the Directorate General for Environment in the European Commission itself … on its very own Public Procurement WebPage at … as viewed, by me, on 2010-09-12 …

[ For a moment, let’s just overlook the simplistic and crude ‘three pillars’ understanding of Sustainable Development.  See my previous Posts.]

Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP) … means that public authorities seek to achieve the appropriate balance between the three pillars of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental – when procuring goods, services or works at all stages of the project.

Green Public Procurement (GPP) … means that public authorities seek to procure goods, services and works with a reduced environmental impact throughout their life cycle compared to goods, services and works with the same primary function that would otherwise be procured.

Practical Differences Between SPP & GPP !

GPP is often more easily accommodated than SPP within the existing legal and practical framework of procurement.  Green requirements can be included in technical or performance-based specifications for products, services and works.  Provided the conditions set out in the ‘Helsinki Bus’ and ‘Wienstrom’ Cases, and Evropaïki Dynamiki vs. European Environment Agency (EEA) … are met, green award criteria can also be applied (further information on these cases is available at

The application of Criteria aimed at addressing Social or Ethical Concerns can be more difficult in the context of regulated public procurement procedures.  Public authorities are specifically empowered to include social requirements in their conditions for the performance of contracts or to reserve certain contracts for performance by sheltered workshops or employment programmes (Articles 26 and 19 of Directive 2004/18/EC respectively).


My Note:  DIRECTIVE 2004/18/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 31 March 2004, on the co-ordination of procedures for the award of public works contracts, public supply contracts and public service contracts.

[ For another moment, let’s just overlook the unfortunate use of disability-related language … which fails, utterly, to take account of the 2001 World Health Organization’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability & Health (ICF).  See my previous Posts.]

Article 19 – Reserved Contracts

Member States may reserve the right to participate in public contract award procedures to sheltered workshops or provide for such contracts to be performed in the context of sheltered employment programmes where most of the employees concerned are handicapped persons who, by reason of the nature or the seriousness of their disabilities, cannot carry on occupations under normal conditions.

The contract notice shall make reference to this provision.

Article 26 – Conditions for Performance of Contracts

Contracting authorities may lay down special conditions relating to the performance of a contract, provided that these are compatible with Community law and are indicated in the contract notice or in the specifications.  The conditions governing the performance of a contract may, in particular, concern social and environmental considerations.

ANNEX VI – Definition of Certain Technical Specifications

For the purposes of this Directive:

1. (a)  ‘technical specification’, in the case of public works contracts, means the totality of the technical prescriptions contained in particular in the tender documents, defining the characteristics required of a material, product or supply, which permits a material, a product or a supply to be described in a manner such that it fulfils the use for which it is intended by the contracting authority.  These characteristics shall include levels of environmental performance, design for all requirements (including accessibility for disabled persons) and conformity assessment, performance, safety or dimensions, including the procedures concerning quality assurance, terminology, symbols, testing and test methods, packaging, marking and labelling and production processes and methods.  They shall also include rules relating to design and costing, the test, inspection and acceptance conditions for works and methods or techniques of construction and all other technical conditions which the contracting authority is in a position to prescribe, under general or specific regulations, in relation to the finished works and to the materials or parts which they involve ;

    (b)  ‘technical specification’, in the case of public supply or service contracts, means a specification in a document defining the required characteristics of a product or a service, such as quality levels, environmental performance levels, design for all requirements (including accessibility for disabled persons) and conformity assessment, performance, use of the product, safety or dimensions, including requirements relevant to the product as regards the name under which the product is sold, terminology, symbols, testing and test methods, packaging, marking and labelling, user instructions, production processes and methods and conformity assessment procedures ;

2.  ‘standard’ means a technical specification approved by a recognised standardising body for repeated or continuous application, compliance with which is not compulsory and which falls into one of the following categories:

–  International Standard: a standard adopted by an international standards organisation and made available to the general public ;

–  European Standard: a standard adopted by a European standards organisation and made available to the general public ;

–  National Standard: a standard adopted by a national standards organisation and made available to the general public.


In order for a Criterion … any Criterion … to be acceptable within the European Union’s Public Procurement Framework, it should be expressly linked to the subject matter of the Contract … should be specific … and should be capable of objective verification.

Beware !!




7-3-2009 – Would that be ‘Today’ … or ‘July 3 2009’ ?

2009-03-07:  Well … which is it ?   This is not a trick question.


In order to avoid confusion … the International Standards Organization (ISO) published International Standard ISO 8601 over 20 years ago.  It has since been revised many times, but the current version is …


ISO 8601 : 2004

Data Elements & Interchange Formats – Information Interchange – Representation of Dates & Times


This was ‘adopted’ by CEN (Comité Européen de Normalisation) as European Standard/Norm … EN 28601.


And, under CEN Rules … it has been ‘transposed’ as the National Standard in the CEN Member Countries … for example …


I.S. EN 28601 – Ireland ;


BS EN 28601 – Great Britain ;


NF EN 28601 – France ;


UNI EN 28601 – Italy ;


CSN EN 28601 – Czech Republic.



The Standard Short Format for writing any date in the Gregorian Calendar is …


Year – Month – Day


Today is … 2009-03-07 … and there can be no confusion !







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