Inclusivity and Customer’s Rights are Primary Focus of New Standard
NSAI (National Standards Authority of Ireland) has developed the world’s first standard to enable energy products and services to be accessible and usable to more customers who span the full range of size, age, physical, mental and sensory abilities. SWIFT 9, (Universal Design for Energy Suppliers) was launched today by the Minister of State, Fergus O’Dowd, T.D. The standard was developed in conjunction with the NDA’s (National Disability Authority) Centre for Excellence in Universal Design (CEUD), CER (Commission for Energy Regulation), representative end users and key energy suppliers.
SWIFT 9 covers written, verbal and electronic based communication including websites and services to customers, embracing the use of Plain English as the benchmark for communications. Universal Design is the degree to which a product or service is usable by as many people as possible.
Minister O’Dowd, said, “SWIFT 9 is the first standard to be developed internationally that embraces good design, guidance and functionality by our energy suppliers, focusing on all end users, ensuring access to information and services. It recognises the customer’s right to be at the centre of services and in time the adoption of Universal Design will lead to a more inclusive and understanding Irish society. Energy suppliers such as Airtricity, Bord Gáis Energy, Electric Ireland, Energia and Flogas are at the forefront of customer service design and provide the foundations on which other customer focused businesses can build.”
Maurice Buckley, CEO, NSAI, said, “Standards play a vital role in making the world accessible and usable, from technologies that are user-friendly for the hearing and visually impaired, to products that can be easily used by older persons or those with disabilities. By putting in place the guidelines set out in SWIFT 9, energy suppliers in Ireland have put the needs of customers with a different range of age, size disabilities and abilities first and foremost when developing their products, services and communications. Industry, policy makers, designers and manufacturers need to think universal design and access from the onset of a project, product or service.”
Dr Ger Craddock, NDA and Chief Officer, Centre for Excellence in Universal Design said, “Universal Design or Good Design benefits all people and our work in development of this important and relevant standard with our colleagues in NSAI, CER, end user representatives and energy suppliers underlines this even further. SWIFT 9 will be of critical importance for end users. Its intent is to simplify life for everyone by making the user and service provider engagement more satisfying for more people at no extra cost.”
Dermot Nolan, Chairperson, CER said, “The competitive energy industry is offering customers a wider range of products and services than ever before. Given the complexity of some products, it is essential that all customers can access discounts and understand what they are signing up for. Universal Design is a positive step to providing easy to understand information and services streamlined for all customers’ needs.”
Concluded Buckley, “NSAI develops standards across a range of business and societal sectors, facilitating market access, aiding competitiveness, and supporting innovation. We have more than 20,000 standards on “our books” many that can assist Irish businesses reduce technical barriers to trade and enable a product or service to be sold on new markets. Swift 9 is focused towards the energy market, but it provides valuable guidance to all customer focused businesses.”
Note: ¹Universal Design: Refers to the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people, regardless of their age, size, ability or disability (Disability Act, 2005).