The primary objective of ISO/TC173 is to produce standards in the field of assistive products and related services to assist a person in compensating for reduced abilities.

The major product categories that ISO/TC 173 presently deals with are wheelchairs and accessories to wheelchairs, assistive products for walking, aids for ostomy and incontinence, personal hygiene, hoists for the transfer of persons and asstive products for people with cognitive disability. ISO TC 173 is also developing a general guideline on cognitive accessibility as well as various standards for products assisting impaired sensory functions, such as visual impairment. ISO/TC 173 is also continuously developing a classification and terminology standard for assistive products, and is currently working on a standard for general requirements of assistive products.  

A report on disability from WHO states that more than one billion people in the world live with some form of disability, of whom nearly 200 million experience considerable difficulties in functioning. Assistive products can mean a difference to all these people. ISO/TC 173 can provide concrete contributions to all these people making it easier to live a better life.

The major benefits expected of the standards developed by ISO/TC 173 are:

  • criteria for manufacturers against which to design products;
  • decreased production costs for assistive products;
  • safe, reliable and functional products produced for purchasers and users;
  • increased quality of life for users;
  • improved cost effectiveness for purchasers, both private and public;
  • enhanced compatibility between products;
  • standards in new emerging areas such as accessibility and cognitive devices;
  • common testing methods leading to comparable, reliable test results, such as the methods developed and standardized for testing electrical and manual wheelchairs.

ISO/TC 173 focuses on elaborating generic standards and pays special attention to the specific risks involved with the interaction of persons with reduced abilities, and their assistive products, with the environment and different products/systems. ISO/TC 173 strives to achieve a high level of co-ordination with other standards organisations such as IEC, CEN, CENELEC and ETSI, and strives to develop standards that are relevant in less resource settings.

ISO TC 173 has also close cooperation with other organizations, such as WHO that coordinates the Global Cooperation on Assistive Technology (GATE), which exists to improve access to high-quality affordable assistive technology for everyone, everywhere.

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