Towards an Inclusive Future by Patrick RW Re - HTML preview

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Editing supported by the Office Fédéral de l’Education et de la Science

(OFES) Switzerland.

EUR: 22562 ISBN: 92-898-0027.

© COST 219ter, 2007.

Published by COST, Brussels.

COST is supported by the EU RTD Framework Programme.

Book design by Christopher Sharville

Printed by East Sussex Press. East Sussex Press is a CarbonNeutral® company and

registered to environmental standards ISO 14001.

The printing inks are made using vegetable-based oils.

No film or film processing chemicals were used. Ninety-five per cent of the cleaning solvents

are recycled for further use and 88 per cent of the waste associated with this product

will be recycled.

Towards an inclusive future


Technological innovation has brought immense benefits to our society and economy.

Information and communication technologies (ICT) now play a key role in all our daily

lives, in our work, education, use of public services and in our homes. New possibilities

emerge of products and services that are flexible, quick, adaptable to our preferences,

reliable and robust.

Yet these same technological advances can present significant barriers to some of the very

people able to benefit most from these services and, without the right support, can even

add to the exclusion many people suffer. Key decisions made when designing and

developing technological products and services will dictate whether some groups, like

people with disabilities, will be able to use them or not.

About 15% of Europeans report difficulties performing daily life activities due to some

form of disability. With the demographic change towards an ageing population, this figure

will significantly increase in the coming years. Older people are often confronted with

multiple minor disabilities which can prevent them from enjoying the benefits that

technology offers. As a result, people with disabilities are one of the largest groups at risk

of exclusion within the Information Society in Europe.

It is estimated that only 10% of persons over 65 years of age use internet compared with

65% of people aged between 16-24. This restricts their possibilities of buying cheaper

products, booking trips on line or having access to relevant information, including social

and health services. Furthermore, accessibility barriers in products and devices prevents

older people and people with disabilities from fully enjoying digital TV, using mobile

phones and accessing remote services having a direct impact in the quality of their daily


Moreover, the employment rate of people with disabilities is 20% lower than the average

population. Accessible technologies can play a key role in improving this situation, making

the difference for individuals with disabilities between being unemployed and enjoying full

employment between being a tax payer or recipient of social benefits.

The recent United Nations convention on the rights of people with disabilities clearly states

that accessibility is a matter of human rights. In the 21st century, it will be increasingly

difficult to conceive of achieving rights of access to education, employment health care

and equal opportunities without ensuring accessible technology.

Technology penetrates ever more in our daily lives. It is crucial that we create solutions

that are usable and accessible for everyone, regardless of their abilities. This is not just

about meeting the needs of a small part of the population. In fact, evidence suggests that

facilitating access to the information society for people with disabilities benefits many

more people in the general population, for example as it drives innovation towards easier

to use products and websites.

Last year, all Member States agreed on a declaration in Riga committing themselves to

take concrete steps to build an Inclusive Information Society and setting clear targets for



Towards an inclusive future

the coming years. To achieve these objectives, it is important to make everyone aware that

eAccessibility is a positive factor for the competitiveness of our industries. Technology is

pointless unless it ultimately meets the needs of society. This must be fully reflected in the

European policies for building the Information Society. eAccessibility is thus essential to

achieving an inclusive society and key for the success of the i2010 initiative, A European

Information Society for Growth and Employment.

European funding on research and development for accessible technologies and services

is not the only precondition to building an information society for all. To ensure that

everyone has the opportunity to benefit from these impressive technological advances, it

is also essential to create a legal and economic environment in which these European

socio-economic objectives can be achieved. The various factors that can contribute to the

risk of exclusion are indeed often interrelated, like poverty, low level of education,

unemployment, disability and old age. These need to be addressed in a consistent and

coherent policy framework.

A truly inclusive Information Society must be socially and economically sustainable. For

many years, accessibility efforts have been concentrated on removing existing barriers. But

this is not enough. COST 219 activities have been pioneers in preventing eAccessibility

problems by promoting a Design for All approach for telecommunication products and


This book addresses the accessibility of next generation ICT networks and services running

on them. Some of the specific issues in this context are: how to ensure accessibility to new

IP based communication solutions? What features do we need to build in next generation

networks to ensure real time multimodal conversations? How to ensure the accessibility

of emergency numbers? Next generation networks offer immense opportunities for

having, besides voice, good quality real time video communication using sign language

and text, including for example display in real time virtual Braille. This would open up new

communication opportunities in particular for deaf-blind persons.

The time is ripe for addressing these issues, asking questions such as the ones above. This

book will certainly contribute to the debate and stimulate the implementation of

accessible solutions in next generation networks. I welcome this important contribution to

the telecommunications field and to the construction of an Inclusive Information Society

in Europe.

Viviane Reding

Member of the European Commission

for Information Society and Media


Towards an inclusive future