The eAccessibility Expert Group, nominated by ESDIS High Level Group, produced - in relation with the Commission services - a final report for the point related to the creation of a European Network of National Centres of Excellence in Design for All and the production of Recommandations for a European Curriculum n Design for All for Designers and Engineers, in the framework of the eEurope 2002 Action Plan.
This report gives an overview of the progress although the target was not completely achieved at the end of 2002. A new report is expected at the end of 2003.
Context: Network of Centres of Excellence and Curriculum (eEurope 2002).
The document is available only in English and in the following formats.
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eEurope - Participation for All
This work was carried out in the frame of the eEurope Initiative, the eEurope action plan, and eAccessibility expert group as established by the High level Group for the Employment and Social Dimension of the Information Society (ESDIS).
This action relates to the target of the eEurope action plan under the Action Line 2c, " Participation for all in the knowledge-based economy":
"Ensure the establishment and networking of national centres of excellence in design-for-all and create recommendations for a European curriculum for designers and engineers". To be carried out by European Commission and the Member States until end 2002.
For the purpose of this work it was agreed to refer to design for all as the design of mainstream products and services to be accessible by as broad a range of users as possible. The approach to achieve this consists of three principal strategies:
Although Design for All could cover a very wide range of products, the work under rope will focus mainly on information society products and services. This does not prevent the centres or experts from having a wider complementary expertise.
The eAccessibility group has addressed the setting up a European network on Design-for-All throughout its meetings during 2001 and 2002. A coordinator for this issue (Prof. Dr. Christian Bühler, Germany) and a contact person at the Commission from the Information Society DG (Ms. I. Placencia-Porrero) were nominated by the group. They closely cooperated with the eAccessibility group and other Commission Services. An approach and timetable were elaborated in order to reach the target within the given framework.
The major steps in the creation of the network were:
In particular, the specific goal of the questionnaire that was developed and distributed to the experts of the cessibility group was to gather information about:
The responses were very varied; all countries except one replied. While some countries have give an extensive reply, including a large number of national and international experts and centres, others have given a very limited list sometimes incomplete. This raised the need for the eAccessibility group and the Commission to revise and update the existing lists and information.
Experts and centres of expertise identified in the questionnaire received an open invitation to participate to a Design for All workshop. This open invitation was also published in the eEurope discussion group in order to attract the maximum number of experts in the field.
The open workshop for interested parties was held on March 8, 2002 in Brussels. The aim of the workshop was to inform of the progress achieved in this target and to invite all interested actors to participate in the network, explaining the selection and nomination process proposed.
In particular there were discussions and presentations on:
The process of nomination was based on the elaboration of a transparent nomination procedure for National Contact Centres (NCCs) involving Member States, the Commission services and ESDIS through the e-accessibility group.
Also it was necessary to clarify the role and the appointment of the secretariat function for the Network. This was achieved through the launching of an expression of interest in order to identify candidates for this work. In all countries a dialogue was promoted by the Commission services (Information Society DG) together with the eAccessibility representative among the possible candidates. In all Member States consensus was reached among the volunteers on the most suitable candidate to operate as a National Contact Centre. These candidates were then proposed to ESDIS via the eAccessibility expert group.
The "informal call for expression of interest" was open not only to participants to the workshop, but to any interested relevant organisation that could be recognised as a centre of excellence in this field. Enough visibility was given to the call and an appropriate time for reaction was available. The expression of interest was accompanied by a form to collect information on the expertise and profile of the candidate centres.
The eAccessibility group supported the selection of those candidates' centres, and proposed to ESDIS their nomination as National Contact Centre, one per Member State.
It was then up to the Member states representatives in ESDIS to follow the recommendations of the eAccessibility group or suggest other candidates or launch other procedures for nomination. The duration of the appointments and the specific characteristics differ among the Member States depending of course on the characteristics and availability of candidates.
In practice, in each country ESDIS agreed to support the most suitable candidate as proposed and agreed by the all the centres.
The European network has one National Contact Centre that acts as secretariat and has a coordination role. Any of the National Contact Centres from the network could volunteer for this role and it was up to the centres of the network to decide their nomination, that can even rotate among them. The European Commission participates as observer to this network and helps in the facilitation of the work, where possible. In particular, the Commission (Information Society DG) will continue to have an active role in the Network until the eEurope target is fully achieved.
The Coordination role of the secretariat should be focused on:
There were three NCC's that volunteered for the secretariat role and it was agreed to Start with Denmark in order to launch the network coinciding with the Danish presidency. It was also agreed to pass the secretariat to the other two candidates The Netherlands and Greece in a period of time to be agreed among the NCC's once the network was launched. This will be reflected in the terms of reference of the EDeAN network.
The European network will provide the means and infrastructure to disseminate and exchange information on Design for All. Various activities on line, like discussion fora, interest groups, distribution lists and information and documentation in digital form should be organised. One important task of the European network will be to provide input for the proposed European Curriculum in Design for All and to offer the materials for courses or even to provide courses themselves in the centres of the network or in general, to develop training oriented activities.
Besides the European network, each country can have a national network where the National Contact Centre acts as the member of the European one. The main goal of the national network is to bring together centres of excellence in a certain country in an open structure in order to bring all the relevant expertise together. Some of those centres working together, having complementary expertise, can be considered and function as virtual centres of excellence.
Based on the interest raised by the institutions to act either as the NCC or secretariat for the network in each Member State, not only an institution but also a contact person was identified to take responsibility for coordinating the national development of networking (virtual centre on national level). This according to the criteria agreed by the eAccessiblity/ESDIS groups, but taking into account the national situation.
Once the National Contact Centres were nominated they started the work on the European network and work on the following tasks:
The progress of the work and the activities of the National Contact Centres and the European network EDeAN should be monitored and activities and results shown to the European citizen. In the benchmarking of DfA, EDeAN will seek to identify guidelines, standards and indicators that can be used as a benchmark. Studies that could describe the state of the art in the Member States would permit to follow up the progress. Comparison between the situation in the Member States, harmonised analysis and collection of best practise are other elements of the benchmarking. The results and experiences of the benchmarking related to the adoption of WAI guidelines (eAccessibility target) will be used as a starting point.
Dissemination, publication and monitoring could be through:
The EDeAN secretariat and National Contact Centres should commit themselves to report regularly to the eAccessibility group on the activities performed.
The Commission (Information Society DG), in order to support the activities of the EDeAN to achieve the e-Europe target has:
Today it can be recognised that with EDeAN the network of centres of excellence in Design-for-all has been successfully established and have started to operate. A particular problem is the lack of financial resources to support the establishing of the network on the European level. The secretariat was launched with the start of the Danish presidency with national funds. Although all network members, NCCs and the secretariat have given the commitment that they have resources to contribute to the network, the speed of starting up this action quickly and effectively depends very much on the driving force behind. An appropriate support of the network secretariat and some support of the European exchange is considered as a key factor for the development. The eAccessibility group continually has expressed this opinion. However, no specific funds have been raised to support this as yet. The support is provided indirectly through the two projects mentioned above where funds are reserved for the NCC's, the discussion groups and specific work in the Curriculum.
The work for the recommendations on a European Curriculum on Design for All has been launched on two levels. On a political level, recommendations will be elaborated by EC officers and the eAccessibility group. With regard to concrete suggestions on curricula, the European Commission's IST programme has contracted the IDCnet project (Start August 2002) to support the EDeAN effort in this respect. Some limited funds are available to support some NCC's in work related to the curriculum. Due to the tight time schedule this part of the target will not be finalised within 2002, but needs to be followed in 2003.
A further indirect support of the network is established through the EC IST programme by the project D4ALLnet (start December/ January 2002/3). This project involves the EDeAN secretariat (although no funds are available for it) and all EDeAN NCCs and follows with 5 lines of work the most important content strands of EDeAN. It also creates a work infrastructure for the network with an online networking tool, knowledge pool and dissemination activities.
Both projects were negotiated having the eEurope 2002 objective as a target and will be closely monitored by the EC and are requested to work together in order to support on the best possible manner the EDeAN.
The EDeAN is the European network of centres of Excellence in Design for All. It has a potential to create wider awareness of DfA in Europe, to exchange experience and expertise and to contribute to the development of DfA and the curriculum on DfA. The EDeAN will promote the implementation of the Curriculum including some pilot initiatives as already expressed by some members of the network that are educational institutions themselves.
However, the network is still in its infancy and the real operation is to come. In order to achieve a sustainable operation of the network, funding on national and European level is essential. European funding should help to create the infrastructure and international cooperation whereas national funding is required to keep the network operation going. The European Commission's 6th Framework Programme might offer possibilities in this respect.
November 28th and 29th 2002 the official kick-off of EDeAN took place in Aarlborg, Denmark prepared and hosted by the secreteriat. During day one the NCCs met officially to discuss the status and future progress of the network. All countries, but one have been able to attend. Besides the NCCs, a European Commission officer and the eAccessibility liaison person have been present. The presentation by the European Commission officer highlighted the eAccessibility target on DfA with a focus on Information Society Technology and the support measures, which have been launched by the European Commission to support EDeAN. The following presentations explained the content and basis for cooperation of the two support measures with EDeAN. Among the currently 103 members of EDeAN are 31 Universities, which provide a potential for the curriculum development. The NCCs presented their national approach and status. It was very obvious that the national situations are quite different and approaches have to be adapted to them. The further discussion fostered on clarification of the administrative procedures and action plan for 2003. It was decided that
During the second day the meeting was open to EDeAN members. Here the members have been informed about the status and presentations have been given by the European projects: DASDA, IDCnet, D4ALLnet and the Irish Access IT platform. The meeting concluded with the impression that EDeAN is starting now and has a great potential to improve the take up of DfA and the curriculum in Europe in the future.
The work of the coordinator has been supported by Forschungsinstitut Technologie - Behindertenhilfe (FTB of ESV) and the Ministerium für Arbeit, Soziales, Qualifizierung und Technologie des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen.
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