6th Framework Programme
TRI: e-Accessibility for All
Response to Consultation

Dr. Barry McMullin
Research Institute for Networks and
Communications Engineering (RINCE)
Dublin City University

27th April 2001
[Document also available in PDF Format.]

1 Introduction

This is a submission in response to a first outline proposal for a European Thematic Research Initiative (TRI) concerning "e-Accessibility for All", prepared by the DG Information Society Unit "Persons with special needs, including the disabled and elderly", and dated 13 March 2001. Section numbers below refer to that outline proposal.

2 Barrier-free and Empowering Technologies (section 2.2)

The distinction between "barrier-free" and "empowering" technologies is a useful one, and the commitment to pursue both "in tandem" is a welcome one. However, there may be a danger that this very distinction could lead to an unintended segregation of work between these categories. Such a segregation would be unfortunate because, of course, many of these technologies will work most effectively precisely when they are fully complementary and integrated.

This issue has been well presented, albeit with somewhat different terminology, in the ICTSB Design for All Report (see section 2 of the Executive Summary).

A concrete example, in the case of Internet technologies, is the interaction between server side and client side. Thus HTML 4 introduced and standardised a range of mechanisms to facilitate access by disabled users: but the effective exploitation of this requires consistent support at both server and client side, and has still not been fully delivered.

Accordingly it might be helpful if the TRI made explicit reference to supporting activities explicitly concerned with integrating barrier-free and empowering technologies.

3 Deployment of new products and services (section 2.4)

Due to the special requirements and relatively small and fragmented markets addressed by e-accessibility technologies there is a particularly strong argument for encouraging the development and adaptation of open source software products in this area. This would also be consistent with the e-Europe Action Plan, objective 3(b): "Promote the use of open source software ..." I suggest therefore that this be explicitly mentioned in the TRI, in section 2.4, and elsewhere as may be appropriate.

4 Rationale for Public Support (section 3)

An important additional rationale for public support of this TRI, again mentioned in the e-Europe Action Plan, objective 2(c), would be that "... new technologies can often be easier for everyone to use if the usability requirements of all potential consumers are considered from the beginning of the design process" (emphasis added).

5 Rationale for Support at European Level (section 4)

An additional rationale for support at European Level is the need for multi-lingual support in all European ICT technologies; this issue is also highlighted in the e-Europe Action Plan, objective 3(d) where there is a commitment to "Launch a programme ... to promote the linguistic diversity in the information society."

6 Conclusion

Overall I found this first outline proposal to be very clear and compelling. Such a TRI will represent a very positive and important element of FR6 and I strongly support its further elaboration and implementation through the sector work programme.

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