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EC/NSF Workshop on Universal Accessibility of Ubiquitous Computing: Providing for the Elderly

22-25 May 2001
Alcácer do Sal, Portugal

In Cooperation with ACM SIGGRAPH, SIGCHI, SIGCAPH, IFIP , Eurographics

Sponsored by:
Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology
Luso-American Foundation for Development (FLAD)


The population in developed countries is ageing slowly but surely, due to advances in healthcare and a downward trend in population growth. While this trend is known and widely acknowledged, the ageing population seems to be notably absent from the minds of conventional application designers who seem to think that devices and applications are to be used by able-bodied young people. The problem is greatly exacerbated by new computing devices and information appliances, which target the same population. While desktop computing environments were by and large targeted at the younger population, the market for new devices targets a significantly broader range of people, backgrounds and age groups. Clearly new design approaches are needed to address specific needs of senior citizens. The proposed workshop will look at these problems in the context of new interconnected ubiquitous devices and pervasive computing platforms. Not only the approaches to computing pose new interesting technical problems, but the interface requirements become ever more stringent and determinant in the success (or failure) of the new technologies.

Nations cannot promote a have and have-not culture in information technology. As the daily activities of living and the infrastructure to support these activities increasingly rely on IT, all members of society need to be able to access and use these techniques. Furthermore, the surge of innovations of which ubiquitous devices and computer networks are perhaps the most prominent, brings forth a new wealth of problems for which designers are barely prepared. With the advent of mobile and ubiquitous computing, a new generation of interactive devices is upon us. The tidal wave of innovation unleashed by these new technologies while attractive to new users and developers may also usher in new frustrations and barriers to accessibility. These can be either facilitators of greater access to IT or added barriers for some citizens. Further, the new capabilities for unforeseen interactions between co-operating devices can present practical obstacles to universal accessibility. New disciplines and design methods should be brought to bear on this problem.
Individuals with disabilities represent a large customer base and protocols need to be in place to enable them to work with the IT infrastructure and for the infrastructure to work for them. The demographic trends in the developed countries introduce new classes of disabilities and challenges specific to the ageing process that so far have been mostly ignored by designers and researchers alike. For example, sophisticated visualization transformations and user interface improvements could make complex data accessible to individuals with limited abilities or type could be enlarged to enable aging population to read from a computer screen.


Workshop Format

We propose to bring together 35 to 40 leaders in the fields of UA research, business, academia and policy to review the current state-of-the-art and produce a set of research agenda items for near and long term activities. All attendees will provide background papers highlighting their individual perspectives. Workshop sessions will include a formal short presentation by the author(s) on the background of the paper or demonstration, a panel of discussants on the topic, a facilitator and a recorder. The discussion at each session will be transcribed and be available to all. Short presentations by contributors to focus on these papers will be made at the workshop. Each topic session, as noted below, will be followed by a brainstorming and, where appropriate, a working activity.

Suggested Non-Exhaustive list of Topics

  1. Pervasive Mobile Computing and People with Disabilities.
  2. Exploratory User Centered design for all citizens.
  3. Accessibility and the Elderly.
  4. Accessibility for people with Cognitive Disorders.
  5. User-centered design for people with disabilities.
  6. Sociological integration facilitated by technology.



  1. To re-assess, with respect to new advances in Information Technology, the role, contribution and interaction of people with different needs and challenges due to physical differences in age, perception, culture and background.
  2. To explore and propose recommendations for new technical policies, immediate Action Plans as well as long term projects and research agendas.
  3. To take into account experience from the past, lessons learned from work with disabilities in general as well as insights based on trends from technological breakthroughs.
  4. To articulate an integrated approach to addressing these problems in the context of technology and human rights and values
  5. To take the rare opportunity to look at common aspects of information systems from a completely different point of view – listening to different disciplines, focuses, cultures and perceptions.



To be effective, the outcomes and directives from the workshop will be accessible to all stakeholders: policy makers as well as researchers, academics and of course members of the disabled community. We have secured an agreement with ACM Press to publish the workshop proceedings in book form after the meeting and through the ACM Digital Library. The results will be made available through the World-Wide Web as well as at public hearings, prestigious conferences, and well-established publications.

Results also will be forwarded to international leaders and policy makers who engage in policy in the area of UA. Most notably, the results will be forwarded to the National Science Foundation as well as the European Commission as recommendations for setting a research agenda for the 6th and ensuing framework programs. Additionally, these results will be sent for publication to newsletters within the main professional societies (SIGGRAPH, SIGCHI and IFIP all have agreed to do this) as well as societies and lobby groups representing the elderly and disabled constituencies.

Additionally, professional societies such as ACM/SIGCHI, SIGCAPH and SIGGRAPH agreed to support the workshop in many ways, including but not limited to, being listed as a cooperating society of the workshop, supporting the dissemination of results and advertising the venue. Similar agreements have been negotiated with other professional associations such as Eurographics, International Federation for Information Processing Technical committee on Human Computer Interaction IFIP (TC13/WG13.3). In addition to the list of invited participants, a few positions (about four to six) will be reserved for doctoral students engaged in this research area. By including doctoral students, we can extend the network of researchers ready to work to implement the ideas generated at the workshop. The selection of these students will be on a competitive basis after an evaluation of a position paper accompanied by a letter of reference and statement of research goals. Preference will be given to students who have been admitted to candidacy.


Support to participants

NSF and EC have signaled they will support the workshop. Thanks to this support, we are offering to partially reimburse the travel expenses (a round trip PEX fare to the conference venue, bus transfer from/to the airport, three nights accommodation and meals at the meeting venue) to participants with accepted contributions. We have secured the services of a local travel agent to help participants with their travel arrangements. Reimbursement will follow rules and procedures established by the EC and NSF for European and US participants respectively. Please see travel and accommodations below for details. Feel free to contact Joaquim Jorge <jorgej@acm.org> or Rachelle Heller <sheller@seas.gwu.edu> if you have any questions or comments. We are looking forward to seeing you in Portugal.

Venue: Time and Place

The workshop is scheduled to take place in an inspiring location in Alcácer do Sal near Lisbon, Portugal, inside a castle at the "Pousada D. Afonso II", a site with 5000 years of history that goes back to the later Neolithic period. The venue is located 70km (45 miles) to the south of Lisbon, on a hill overlooking vast plains.

The workshop will last four days, from May 22nd to May 25th 2001. This secluded site is chosen so that attendees can participate without distraction. The cloistered nature of the venue encourages opportunities for continued interchange outside of formal sessions. More important, the meeting venue is accessible to people with disabilities. The relaxed atmosphere will enable participants to from ad hoc small group discussions. The informality should also act as encouragement to all to engage in discussions and permit all to be heard. You can view the facilities of the Pousada and its surrounding area on the Web at:
http://www.pousadas.pt/01pousadas/30ctlisboa/056afonso2/index.html .



Position papers due: March 23 2001 Expired
Notification of Acceptance/rejection: April 16 2001 Expired
Final Versions due: April 30 2001
Workshop May 22 - May 25 2001

Program Committee

Position papers, will be evaluated by a program committee. The program committee will decide on the final program and list of participants. The following people compose the program committee:
  • Rachelle Heller, USA (chair)
  • Joaquim Jorge, Portugal
  • Richard Guedj, France
  • Jenny Preece, USA
  • D. Duce, UK


Format of contributions

Authors are requested to submit high-quality contributions, no longer than 12 pages, with the main body set in a 12-point font. Each paper should contain title, authors' names and affiliations, abstract, keywords, text, illustrations and references. Submissions should be sent by e-mail to <wua@virtual.inesc.pt> or to Rachelle Heller <sheller@seas.gwu.edu>. Accepted contributions will be published through this web site shortly before the conference.

ACM Conference format is encouraged but only required for final submissions. We prefer position papers in PDF or HTML/CSS formats. Ms/Word or Postscript areaccepted if you cannot produce one of the other formats. Please contact jorgej@acm.org directly if you do not receive a confirmation within 24 hours of submission.


Organizing Committee

    • Joaquim Jorge, INESC-ID, Portugal
    • Rachelle Heller, GWU, USA
    • Richard Guedj, FR
  • Paula Centeno, INESC-ID, Administrative support
  • Manuel Fonseca, INESC-ID, On-line proceedings


Please refer all your questions concerning the workshop to
Ms Paula Centeno <Paula.Centeno@inesc.pt>
Rua Alves Redol, 9
1000-021 Lisboa
Tel. +351 21 310 0303 Fax: +351 21 314 5843

Travel and Accommodation

We have enlisted the services of Abreu Tours, a local travel agent with vast experience in conference organization and logistics to help with local details, including accommodation, social programs and travel arrangements. Transfer buses will be available at the airport to take you to the Pousada (75 Km or 50 mi). Please check with the travel agent for details. We encourage you to process your travel and accommodation bookings directly through Abreu Tours to simplify arrangements and reimbursements. You can contact them through one of their main offices in several cities:

Lisbon, Portugal

Contact Ms Madalena de Almeida
Tel. +351 21 4156121 Fax. +351 21 4156383
E-mail: malmeida.lisboa@abreu.pt

New York, NY

Contact Ms. Dora Ferreira
350, 5th Avenue, Empire State Building, Suite 2414
Tel. 212 819 9205 Fax. 212 354 1840
e-mail: dferreira@abreu-tours.com

Other offices exist in London and Madrid. For more details, please see their website at

Sponsored By:

In Cooperation With:



Created by: Joaquim Jorge <jorgej@acm.org>
March, 2001