Design for All (DfA)
One way of helping to ensure that everyone can fully participate in the Information Society is for industry to design Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) products, services and applications that we all can use. The Design for All concept encourages manufacturers and service providers to produce new technologies for everyone: technologies that are suitable for the elderly and people with disabilities, as much as the teenage techno wizard.
Design for All (DfA) embraces the idea that it is perfectly possible to produce ICT goods which can be accessed by nearly all potential users without modification or, failing that, products should be easy to adapt according to different needs, or should use standardised interfaces that can be accessed simply by using assistive technology.
The European Commission is committed to promoting DfA as part of its wider pledge to ensure equal access to the Information Society.
Over the years, the Commission has backed DfA in a number of areas including:
Research and development
The Commission has funded research via the EU’s Framework Programmes for Research. In the mid to late 1990s, themes included focused projects to improve eAccessibility for people with special needs.
For example, TIDE – Technology Initiative for Disabled and Elderly people – ran several DfA projects. Four DfA projects were also supported through the Commission’s Cross Programme Action (CPA3), launched in 1999.
This commitment continued through the Sixth Framework Programme (2002-06, FP6) where the Science and Society theme included projects on DfA and assistive technologies. The IST e-Inclusion work programme in FP6 also focused on making accessibility a basic requirement of all ICT tools.
To learn about current research in this area, visit the eAccessibility research page.
Exchanging best practice
The eEurope 2002 action plan called for greater coordination and the sharing of Design for All expertise . As a result, a network of National Centres of Excellence in DfA (EDeAN) was established . The network has developed a DfA curriculum for designers and engineers, and works to foster awareness of accessibility issues. The Commission supported EDeAN by way of its IST thematic network, D4ALL Net. Support for building the curriculum was provided through the IDCNet thematic network.
The Commission has also advocated the use of standardisation to improve the effectiveness and uptake of DfA. The Commission has mandated CEN, CENELEC AND ETSI to include "design for all" in relevant standardisation initiatives.