Infoterm, the International Information Centre for Terminology, has been active in standardization since its establishment in 1971 by contract with UNESCO. Although terminology standardization started as soon as standards bodies began standardizing technical matters at the beginning of the 20th century, there were no commonly agreed rules for standardizing the terminologies of various fields. Infoterm pioneered the international standardization of rules for terminology standardization – which today apply to all unification and standardization activities world-wide, and even to many aspects of education and research in all subject fields.
Infoterm is also an active partner in the IN LIFE project. AAATE talked to Christian Galinski, CEO of Infoterm, about their participation in this EU project, what they expected, what they learned and what will be the outcome of the project for their association.
What is your role in the IN LIFE project and what was your motivation to participate?
Christian: Infoterm started off from a focus on (multilingual) terminology in all its facets and applications, and in all subject fields – there is hardly any technical committee in standardization that is not standardizing its core terminology. Of course, this also applies to eHealth, eAccessibility & eInclusion and other eApplications – increasingly also to aspects of communication with and among persons with disabilities (PwD). Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are strongly based on standards for the sake of interoperability. Non-compliance to standards may lead to lower usability or even the loss of reputation of products, services and whole companies – and even may lead to liability cases.
That is why IN LIFE needed a thorough investigation of pertinent standards and their application for the broad range of aspects in the IN LIFE project. For the sake of sustainability of IN LIFE results beyond the duration of the project, it was conceived from the very beginning to engage in standardization activities, in order to make sure that (a) the most pertinent standards are applied in the right way in the project, and (b) the project provides input into ongoing standardization activities. For this purpose, Infoterm drafted the IN LIFE Standardization Plan whose implementation is making good progress.
Does your participation in the IN LIFE project fulfil your expectations in this respect?
Christian: Yes, indeed. Soon it became obvious that there are many more standards than expected in the fields covered by the scope of IN LIFE. First analyses revealed that there is a gap with respect to standards referring to inter-human communication – increasingly supported by ICTs – with and among PwD. This could even refer to the content of that communication which sometimes takes the form of ‘controlled’ or simplified language (or other kinds of communication) depending on the PwD’s needs. This is an aspect of high relevance to developers of assistive technology (AT).
What exactly did you develop for the IN LIFE project?
Christian: As a first result, Infoterm compiled the IN LIFE “Database of information on standards concerning eAccessibility and eInclusion” comprising some 500 information entries on pertinent standards – more than any similar compilation so far. Decision makers who are obliged to refer to accessibility standards in contracts with experts, technology developers, service providers etc. In larger countries of the EU, many such contracts may have to be concluded by thousands of larger caregiving institutions more or less every day – but finding information on standards is difficult. If they do not refer to the most pertinent standards, risks and conflicts may be looming. Therefore, many people and organisations are looking forward to the publication and continuous updating of these data.
Based on the experience with the difficulties encountered in collecting the data for the database, Infoterm in cooperation with experts and PwD drafted the “Recommendation 2016 concerning standards on eAccessibility and eInclusion” which is gratefully endorsed and promoted by AAATE, the Association for the Advancement of Assistive Technology in Europe. AAATE is also one of the partners in IN LIFE. In a further step, AAATE decided to re-launch its Special Interest Group (SIG) on “Standardization” in order to engage in the implementation of the IN LIFE Standardization Plan to assure sustainability of the IN LIFE results concerning standardization beyond the duration of the project.
In parallel, a certification scheme for Certified Web Accessibility Experts (CWAE) has been successfully launched in 2015, and will be rolled out Europe-wide, in order to train and certify urgently needed web accessibility experts. Additionally, several standardization committees were made aware of the importance to consider eAccessibility and eInclusion in their activities.
What would be the ideal outcome for you?
Christian: As a non-profit association committed to the mission and objectives of UNESCO, Infoterm is always striving for project results which last and make many stakeholders benefit. Therefore, we support plans to establish a community platform of people involved in the field of eAccessibility and eInclusion and the related AT. This platform will have the function to (a) gather people ready to engage in the evaluation of emerging standards (or standards under revision) for the benefit of PwD, and (b) thus help to update and extend the data of the IN LIFE database on a regular basis. Thus, the IN LIFE database could become a knowledge pool on issues of standardization and the application of standards related to impairments and disabilities – pointing also to (a) knowledgeable experts in the field and (b) inconsistencies in standards and gaps in standardization calling for solutions.
What has been your experience so far? What practical issues do you encounter?
Christian: So far, the results of the promotion activities for the IN LIFE Standardization Plan in good cooperation with AAATE are positive beyond expectations. There is a team in place to plan and implement the AAATE/SIG Standardization community platform of people involved in the field of eAccessibility and eInclusion and the related AT. Many experts, institutions, organisations and even technical committees have already endorsed the Recommendation 2016.
Experts and organizations active in the fields of AT, eAccessibility and eInclusion have recognized the importance of being involved in the standardizing activities of relevance to them. This supports standards organizations in their efforts and will help to improve the content of pertinent standards for the benefit of PwD. Therefore, technical committees, such as ISO/TC 37 “Terminology and other language and content resources”, have endorsed the recommendation.
What will come afterwards for your organisation? Do you see yourself implementing the project outcomes?
Christian: By the time of the official end of the IN LIFE project, the major infrastructure elements for running the AAATE/SIG Standardization implementing the IN LIFE Standardization Plan will be in place. Infoterm will actively continue to support these activities.
Designing and implementing the IN LIFE Standardization Plan has been an extremely valuable experience and can serve as a model for other activities which focus on the standardization of highly transversal aspects like those for eAccessibility and eInclusion. The certification schemes initiated will grow towards a larger system covering further aspects of eAccessibility and eInclusion, and support the necessary standardization activities. PwD who can contribute to standardization will be welcome to contribute to the AAATE/SIG Standardization activities.
This looks like a win-win situation for all stakeholders involved in this endeavour.
21 organisations, including ISO TC37, have already endorsed Recommendation 2016. It is still possible to express and endorsement by following the link: http://aaate.net/2017/04/14/aaate-endorsed-the-recommendation-2016-concerning-standards-on-eaccessibility-and-einclusion/
Accessible Media (AT): http://www.accessible-media.at/
Austrian Association in support of the blind and visually impaired:
Certified Web Accessibility Expert: