Involvement with the International Standards Organization (ISO)
In early 2014, when the Ontario government was inviting feedback regarding the customer service segment of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), I asked some Checkered Eye Project (CEP) supporters to add a specific point. The point I hoped to convey was that since the AODA is specific in its requirement that people who provide customer service understand certain tools, such as service animals, we think they should also be required to recognize any symbols whose purpose is to communicate a hidden disability, such as the checkered eye and the various types of white canes.
When one of the CEP supporters provided her feedback, it was misunderstood as a request for the government to come up with a symbol for low vision. She sent me the e-mail she’d received so I could address it directly. After clarifying the message for this person, I focused on a suggestion he had offered: he suggested she contact the International Standards Organization (ISO) with the goal in mind of implementing a symbol for low vision. The fact that a person familiar with governmental procedures thought that contacting the ISO would be a useful course of action excited me.
So I got busy researching exactly what the ISO is and what they do. Very simply, they are a group that develops standards that are voluntarily adhered to, with the intent of facilitating international health, safety, and trade. The Standards Council of Canada (SCC) is a part of the ISO and has various committees. I discovered that my timing was fortuitous as the ISO was in the process of reviewing international standards for graphical symbols. The people with whom I was discussing this issue suggested that to present the checkered eye for consideration, I’d have to be involved in the process.
So the SCC has a technical committee (TC) involved with the graphical symbols review and I asked how to become a part of that technical committee. Still following?
I was forwarded some online courses which I eagerly studied. They were not very accessible to me as they were presented in power point formats which my software couldn’t read aloud. Fortunately they were brief and I could enlarge them enough to read visually. At the end of each segment I was e-mailed a printable certificate; seemed a bit juvenile but I liked it!
The next step was to apply for membership. I was asked to submit a completed form along with my CV. After discovering that CV was another term for resume, I felt a bit stumped. I’ve been a full time Mom for over 2 decades and my work history previous to that was largely in unskilled clerical work and restaurants.
I e-mailed my contact at ISO who thanked me for my honesty and said he’d look into this. He e-mailed me back to suggest I write a letter reflecting what I’d told him and he’d take it to the committee. About a week later I got an e-mail welcoming me to the SMC/ISO/TC145SC1! Yippee!
My duties as a committee member entailed reading. Yup more reading. I was a bit concerned about being able to keep up until what I think was my second document. This particular document outlined the requirements any graphical symbol would have to meet in order to be considered an international standard. It would have to be recognized a percentage of the time and in a number of countries, that is more like the goal the CEP is striving for than a status it already meets.
So since my whole point in participating with this ISO TC was to gain recognition for the checkered eye, it seemed that my involvement was mistakenly undertaken.
My contacts were very understanding and gracious when I let them know I’d be stepping down.
All in all it was an interesting experience. I learned a bit about the complexities of governing something as vast as global trade and how specific the language must be for such a process. I enjoyed getting the little “ticky marks” for completing the brief courses I took, and I successfully applied for a position in the International Standards Organization! Well actually it was a sub-committee to the technical committee of a mirror committee to the International Standards Organization but hey, that’s something!