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< Contents ERCIM News No. 51, October 2002

Consensus Creation on Universal Access in Health Telematics

by Constantine Stephanidis and Demosthenes Akoumianakis

IS4ALL (IST-1999-14101) 'Information Society for All' is an EC-funded Thematic Network seeking to establish a wide, interdisciplinary and closely collaborating network of experts (Working Group) to provide the European Health Telematics industry with a code of practice detailing how to appropriate the benefits of Universal Design.

The objectives and technical approach of the IS4ALL project have been presented in ERCIM News Nos. 46 and 43. This article focuses and elaborates on the project's activities that aim to facilitate transfer of know-how and know-why regarding Universal Access to potential recipients in the Health Telematics industry.

To this end, the perspective of the IS4ALL project is three-fold. Firstly, there is a commitment to consolidate and codify currently available knowledge and best practice on Universal Access by means of a continuous data collection effort. In a second stage, methods and techniques for Universal Access are validated by reference to designated scenarios and use cases from the domain of Health Telematics. Finally, a broad range of outreach activities are planned to facilitate awareness raising and consensus creation on the issue of Universal Access amongst Health Telematics practitioners. The prime target of these outreach activities is to facilitate inter- and intra-sectoral transfer of knowledge with the aim to:

  • increase Health Telematics practitioners' propensity to innovate as a result of process improvements resulting from the adoption of Universal Access practices
  • guide them towards the appropriation of the benefits of innovative applications and services following the principles of Universal Access.

In devising suitable mechanisms to facilitate transfer of know-how and know-why, the commitment is towards support measures intended to promote in the Health Telematics sector a favourable environment for the exchange of knowledge, experience and practice on the issues pertaining to Universal Access. The prime focus is on mechanisms that foster networking and learning by doing. Two such clusters of mechanisms have been defined to facilitate collaboration and dissemination of information, respectively.

Collaboration-Oriented Mechanisms
IS4ALL promotes active collaboration with players in the Health Telematics sector by:

  • Formally inviting key representatives from the Health Telematics sector to become involved as partners in the IS4ALL consortium. In this way, the IS4ALL project has acquired strong links with user communities, such as MS-HUGe, as well as industrial networks such as EHTEL. Additionally, these representatives provide the project with the collective wisdom, requirements and needs of the Health Telematics sector, thus focusing technical work and 'screening' the results so as to ensure their relevance, comprehensiveness and applicability.
  • Initiating and sustaining direct contacts with target user communities, which may be national Health Telematics providers and networks, industries, or consortia, in an effort to elicit requirements and formulate reference scenarios, so that Universal Access methods and techniques are validated. At the same time, the target user communities gain feedback on their technical developments in the form of usability reports, recommendations for design improvements, participation in seminars and access to information and project deliverables.
  • Organising thematic meetings in the form of Focus Groups or workshops. Experts are invited to review progress and technical achievements, and to help the IS4ALL project consolidate and refine its findings and fine-tune the presentation of its technical achievements. Thus far, the project has organised one Focus Group seeking to collect information on Universal Access methods, techniques and tools, while three workshops are planned to take place by September 2003 to refine and finalise the project's final deliverable, which is a comprehensive code of Universal Access practice in Health Telematics.

Information Dissemination Mechanisms
The outreach activities of the IS4ALL project amount to organising and extending invitations for participation to seminars, tutorials and workshops, preparing and periodically updating project presentation materials, and maintaining the project's website. Seminars constitute a prime instrument for disseminating information in a timely fashion and are delivered, free of charge, in the context of important events organised by members of the Health Telematics sector (ie European and international conferences, workshops, etc).

IS4ALL has already delivered three seminars, the content of which varied to reflect progress and technical achievements, focusing respectively on:

  • presenting Universal Access methods as adopted by practitioners in other sectors of the industry, such as industrial engineers, architects and developers of interactive applications and services
  • elaborating Health Telematics reference scenarios to ensure their validity and relevance
  • illustrating the methods in practice through designated validation exercises.

IS4ALL plans to organise three more seminars by September 2003. For more information on the IS4ALL project and scheduled activities, please visit the project's website.


Please contact:
Constantine Stephanidis, ICS-FORTH
Tel: +30 810 391741