Manufacturers and service providers worldwide currently use different approaches to comply with accessibility requirements whenever they do produce/provide products and services with specific accessibility features. These approaches sometimes rely on national or international standards; most of the time without harmonisation of standards between regions or countries.
A number of accessibility standards are under development at European level following standardisation requests by the European Commission to the European standardisation organisations (ESO). These standardisation requests (non-legislative actions) invited ESOs to align the development of voluntary European standards to global developments. The requests relevant to accessibility are: M/3766 (2005) on ICT which resulted in a European standard EN 301 5497 adopted in February 2014; M/4208 (2007) on built environment and M/4739 on mainstreaming accessibility following a "design for all" approach in the European standardisation. These standardisation requests were issued after a positive opinion of the Member States in the Committee set up by Article 5 of Directive 98/34/EC and invite the ESOs to develop certain voluntary accessibility standards and to review, when possible, existing standards to give better guidance concerning “design for all” principles.
This requested voluntary European standardisation work is lengthy and in the absence of European standards it is possible that national standardisation work will occur. Therefore voluntary European standardisation will need to be underpinned by regulatory intervention to achieve the intended European wide harmonisation. The functional accessibility requirements set in the Directive are given in terms of general objectives. One of the ways to assess conformity with those requirements is by applying voluntary harmonised standards that are adopted in accordance with Regulation (EU) No 1025/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on European Standardisation.10