ISO Standards and Accessibility

Published January 11, 2023

ISO is the acronym for the International Organization of Standardization. Through the collaboration of its members, ISO develops and promotes international standards for working conditions, technology, scientific testing, societal issues, and much more.

ISO is a non-government organization (NGO) established in 1946. According to their official history, the organization came together as, “65 delegates from 25 countries (meet) to discuss the future of International Standardization.”

ISO issued its first standard in 1951. The standard was published under the name, ISO/R 1:1951 Standard reference temperature for industrial length measurements. This groundbreaking standard has seen several updates and now exists as ISO 1:2016 Geometrical Product Specifications (GPS) - Standard reference temperature for geometrical product specification

In the years following its formation, ISO has established headquarters in Geneva and boasts a membership body consisting of standards organizations representing over 160 countries. For example, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) serves as the U.S.’s ISO representative.

As of 2022, ISO has developed over 24,599 international standards.

How does ISO develop its standards?

Before it publishes its standards, ISO must follow a six-step process:

  • ProposalAn industry association or consumer group requests a new standard. The relevant ISO committee then assesses if there is a need for a new standard.

  • PreparatoryA group is established to prepare a new draft standard. According to TechTarget, this group is composed of “subject experts and industry stakeholders."

  • CommitteeMembers of the relevant ISO committee will review and comment on the drafted standard.

  • InquiryThe draft standard is sent to the General assembly for members to vote on. If approved without any substantial edits at this stage, the draft international standard (DIS) will be published as an ISO standard. If the DIS requires technical changes, it must move to a final draft international standard (FDIS) stage and stand for approval.

  • ApprovalThe FDIS is submitted to the ISO Central Secretariat. The Central Secretariat circulates it to all ISO members for an 8-week vote. If the FDIS receives a two-thirds majority favorable vote, it moves to publication.

  • PublicationAt this stage, the secretary submits the final document to be published. Any changes made to this text must be strictly editorial.

ISO certification

Organizations or businesses that adhere to ISO standards can obtain ISO certification. ISO certification means that a business has demonstrated conformity to the latest iteration of ISO standards.

It’s worth noting that ISO itself does not issue certification. According to the 9000 Store, ISO certification is issued by an accredited third-party registrar. Organizations must reach out to a registrar, who will conduct an audit to ensure that the organization meets ISO standards.

Accessing ISO standards

To access ISO standards, organizations must purchase the documents directly from ISO.

ISO standard examples

As previously mentioned, ISO’s standards cover a wide range of issues. Some of these standards may be industry specific. Others are of a more general variety to ensure widespread adherence. 

One of the more popular standards, according to Cabem Technologies, is from the ISO 9000 family. Specifically,  ISO 9001. ISO 9001 involves facilitating Quality management systems (QMS) in an organization.

 According to the American Society for Quality (ASQ), QMS refers to a “formalized system that documents processes, procedures, and responsibilities for achieving quality policies and objectives.”

ISO 9001 details practices that help personnel understand how their actions can influence the customer experience. It also provides space for a self-assessment system. If a business wishes to achieve ISO 9001 certification, it needs to demonstrate a thoughtful and organized management system. 

Other standards include ISO 14001, which concerns how processes impact the environment, and ISO 27001, which focuses on information security processes.

ISO standards related to accessibility

Another subject that ISO standards cover is accessibility. One such standard is ISO 30071-1.

According to ISO’s website, 30071-1 offers "a holistic approach to the accessibility of information and communications technology (ICT) by combining guidance on implementing the accessibility of ICT systems (ICT accessibility) both at organizational and system development levels."

This standard provides steps that organizations can follow to maintain accessible digital systems. This includes creating organization-wide accessibility policies. It also includes communicating these policies to users of the organization’s ICT.

Another accessibility-related standard is ISO/IEC 40500:2012. This standard may be recognized by its more common name, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.

WCAG consists of a wide range of standards and mandates to make web content more accessible. These standards include making sure content is understandable, navigable, and able to be consumed by users of all ability levels.


ISO standards are an effective means for organizations to assess their operations and performance. By utilizing these standards, businesses and organizations can ensure a positive, cohesive user experience. This includes following those standards related to accessibility.


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