ERCIM News No.21 - April 1995 - GMD

Teleworking for Disabled People

by Michael Pieper

GMD currently intensifies its efforts to develop information and communication technologies in order to enable disabled and elderly persons to lead a self-determined life and equally participate in the social and economical activities of their community. With regard to this general objective, the TEDIS-project (Teleworking for Disabled People) concentrates on telecooperation to overcome the often restricted mobility of disabled persons which is particularly detrimental to their professional integration. It is the aim to have a pilot installation of suitable teleworkstations for disabled persons.

TEDIS is a contribution to the promotional program "Telecooperation - Value Added Services" of the German Federal Department for Education, Science, Research and Technology. Promotional priority topics of this program are to study new forms of telecooperation, to develop new forms of work organization required by applying telecooperation technology, and to detect possible obstructive factors.

From a methodological point of view, the development of a teleworkstation adaptable to specific disabilities has to pursue approaches of participative systems design. At all levels of the development process, from the definition of application requirements via the exploration of the state of the art of suitable technologies up to the implementation and evaluation of prototypical systems, the involvement of disabled persons is an indispensable basic condition.

The project is divided into a pre-phase (6 to 9 months) and a subsequent main phase (15 to 18 months).

The pre-phase is to investigate the state of the art of suitable technologies with regard to telecooperation and human computer interfaces adaptable to certain disabilities.

Simultaneously, contacts to other research institutions, associations and private companies having practical experiences in the care for and the technical support of disabled people should be established. This applies especially to foreign organizations and is to define a joint venture or join such a venture financed by funds of the European Commission (e.g. the EC's "Technology Initiative for Disabled and Elderly Persons" (TIDE)).

The results of the pre-phase studies shall be presented at a workshop jointly organized by German Federal Department for Science and GMD on which concrete requirements of disabled persons using telecooperation technology shall be specified. This requirements analysis is to distinguish between cognitive and motor disabilities and disabilities of vision, audition and speech. The proposals of the workshop are to be published.

Within the main phase of the project, GMD will implement and evaluate a certain workshop proposal to be selected. The concrete aim of the main phase is the pilot installation of a teleworkstation which can be adapted to specific disabilities, which industry can produce easily and inexpensively, and which is of benefit to a larger group of disabled persons.

During the main phase, the project however will not only concentrate on technical aspects. Suitable approaches of technology assessment will focus on the issue that support of disabled people by telecooperation technology should not be detrimental to their social integration and isolate these people in a world of technical devices which they are able to handle, but which seclude them from daily life. Therefore ethical, sociological, legal and economic aspects of teleworking are additionally to be considered. These aspects however are not necessarily specific to disabled persons. "Dual use" as one of the requirements discussed by science and technology policy in the context of a technology design for disabled persons will thus be taken into account. Technology design for disabled persons will always be also a "design for all" and will have impacts beyond its actual field of application.

Please contact:
Michael Pieper - GMD
Tel: +49 2241 14 2018 or 14 2316
E-mail: michael.pieper@gmd.de

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