An inclusive digital economy supporting older and disabled people and other digitally disenfranchised groups

Lead Research Organisation: University of Dundee
Department Name: School of Computing


This cluster brings together a multi-disciplinary team with track records in developing computer systems for older and disabled people, and other digitally disenfranchised groups, and in developing methods to ensure the accessibility of I.T. systems. The cluster will survey both the literature and the current commercial practice in this area, and institute a number of specific pilot research projects / these will include focus groups with users which will be used to discuss the challenges which a digital economy will present to them. There will also be mixed focus groups of users and designers / these have been found to be particularly useful in requirements gathering and awareness raising where users are older people. We will be conducting pilot research into the development of social networking sites as methods for encouraging older and disabled people to be part of the Digital Economy, and the challenges and the possibilities of multi-modal interfaces and pervasive technology for this group of users. In addition we will be investigating the development of an ontology of disabilities with specific reference to the challenges these provide to designers and policy makers within the digital economy.The major activities of the network will be based on open meetings of the cluster: specific meetings will be used to (a) scope the research, (b) develop links with the proposed Usability Cluster, (c) review the national and international research in the field, (d) assess the impact of inclusivity on the work of the other clusters, (e) develop plans to respond to the challenges raised in the previous workshops, and (f) determine future research in this area. The series of meetings will culminate in an open public meeting which will present the conclusions of the clusters activities. This conference will include a live theatre event which will highlight the important issues which have emerged during our deliberations.As this cluster is cross cutting, members of the cluster will attend meetings of the other clusters, both to raise the issue of inclusivity within those clusters and to ensure that inclusive cluster addresses the challenges highlighted by these other clusters. Clearly links with the proposed usability cluster will be particularly important and, as indicated above, a specific joint meeting is proposed with this cluster.A number of other networks and groups of people are working in the field of digital inclusivity. Formal links will be made with these organisations, and their mailing lists used to publicise the work of this cluster. In order to set the deliberations of the cluster in context with international research, members of the cluster will be encouraged to attend international conferences in the field. A major challenge the cluster will address is changing attitudes of designers, policy makers and other stakeholders in the Digital Economy. There is significant evidence that traditional standards and guidelines and best practice are not very effective as a way of encouraging designers and other stakeholders to really understand and be empathetic to the characteristics, needs and wants of older and disabled people. We will use professional theatre, both live events and professionally produced videos to present the challenges older people have in using digital systems. Research by members of the cluster has shown that these techniques are a very powerful way of requirements gathering with older people and of raising awareness amongst designers both in an educational and international conference settings. This particular aspect of the work of the cluster will expand the knowledge of the use, and the increase awareness, of these techniques. The videos produced will provide a lasting and permanent educational tool for digital technology designers, and other stakeholders in the Digital Economy, as well as provide pointers to future use of these powerful educational techniques.


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