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Distinguished Speaker Series 2000-2001

March 23, 2001

Refreshments and Networking: 10:00 - 10:30
Presentation: 10:30 - 12:00

Universal Access in the Information Society:
Achievements, Challenges and Promises
(slides - PPT)

Constantine Stephanidis
Institute of Computer Science,
Foundation for
Research and Technology - Hellas (ICS-FORTH)

Abstract: The on-going paradigm shift towards a knowledge-intensive Information Society has brought about radical changes in the way people work and interact with each other and with information. The requirement for universal access stems from the growing impact of the fusion of the emerging technologies, and from the different dimensions of diversity that are intrinsic to the information society. These dimensions become evident when considering the broad range of user characteristics, the changing nature of human activities, the variety of contexts of use, the increasing availability and diversification of information, knowledge sources and services, the proliferation of technological platforms, etc. In this context, universal access refers to the accessibility, usability and, ultimately, acceptability of Information Society Technologies (IST) by anyone, anywhere, anytime. The aim is to enable equitable access and active participation of potentially all citizens in existing and emerging computer-mediated human activities, such as access to on-line information, e-communication, digital libraries, e-business, on-line health services, e-learning, on-line communities, on-line public and administrative services, e-democracy, telework and telepresence, on-line entertainment, etc. Efforts towards universal access to Information Society Technologies have met wide appreciation by an increasing proportion of the international community, leading to various research, industrial, policy, standardisation and legislation initiatives worldwide, as well as to the establishment of forums for the diffusion and exchange of ideas and research results.

This presentation will focus on the concept of Universal Design as a proactive approach to the accessibility of IST, and will review recent achievements, current efforts and challenges, and future promises, towards the development of generic solutions to the problem of accessibility. To this end, the presentation will identify the requirements for a proactive perspective and strategy that takes into account the widely ranging end user abilities, requirements, skills and preferences. Secondly, an overview of technological efforts, mainly in the field of HCI, will be provided, highlighting the concept of User Interfaces for All. This concept constitutes a multidisciplinary research theme aiming to advance a proposal for interaction design that builds upon, and substantiates, the principles of universal design in the context of Human Computer Interaction. Additionally, the presentation will review policy initiatives at national and international levels, legislation initiatives as well as standardisation activities aiming to promote proactive approaches to accessibility and Universal Design. The presentation will also point out some of the challenges currently posed by universal access in the Information Society, and how they are being addressed by on-going work, and will sketch a roadmap from User Interfaces for All towards an Information Society for All. The aim of such a roadmap is to raise general awareness about, and to contribute towards the establishment of a critical mass of knowledge for, universal access in the emerging Information Society.

About the Speaker: Prof. Constantine Stephanidis is Deputy Director of the Institute of Computer Science of the Foundation for Research and Technology - Hellas, and Head of its Human-Computer Interaction and Assistive Technology Laboratory. He is also a member of the Faculty at the Department of Computer Science and member of the Senate of the University of Crete. For many years, he has been engaged, as Prime Investigator, in pioneering research work, partly funded by the European Commission and, in 1995, he introduced the concept of "User Interfaces for All" as a socio-technical goal in the context of the Information Society. He also introduced a new technical framework for achieving this goal - a method and an accompanying set of tools that support the development of "Unified User Interfaces" facilitating universal access and usability of emerging interactive products, applications and services. Prof. Stephanidis published about 200 technical papers in scientific archival journals and proceedings of international conferences related to his fields of expertise. He serves in the Editorial Board of several scientific journals and the Programme Committee of many International Conferences, and has organised many international scientific conferences, workshops, seminars, and panels. Prof. Stephanidis is the Editor-in-Chief of the Springer international journal "Universal Access in the Information Society" and the Editor of the LEA book "User Interfaces for All - Concepts, Methods and Tools". He is the Founding Chair of the International Conference "Universal Access in Human Computer Interaction", Founding Chair of the ERCIM Working Group "User Interfaces for All" and General Chair of its annual Workshop. He was also the Founding Chair of the International Scientific Forum "Towards an Information Society for All". Prof. Stephanidis is currently member of the Executive Committee and member of the Board of Editors of ERCIM, a member of the Advisory Committee of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), and participant of the W3C - Web Accessibility Initiative.

Faculty Host: Alfred Kobsa, kobsa@ics.uci.edu

RSVP: Email RSVP required to Rick Martin at remartin@uci.edu by Monday, March 19.

McDonnell Douglas Auditorium (building #311)

No cost to attend.

Directions and parking information
are available.