Towards an Inclusive Future by Patrick RW Re - HTML preview
Download the book in PDF, ePub, Kindle for a complete version.
Editing supported by the Office Fédéral de l’Education et de la Science
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 www.laker-sharville.com
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
Member of the European Commission
for Information Society and Media
Towards an inclusive future