Design for universal access is one of the most important topics in today's information society, globally and locally. It aspires to meet the needs of every individual and their special needs, vocational groups with specific needs or extreme working conditions, the needs of societies and cultures who wish to achieve better standards of living through information technology facilitated productivity and the information technology vendor who needs to maximise market uptake and enjoyment of products and services. Conversely, there is absolutely no point in developing more and more products and functions for less and less people.
Clearly the information technology world is moving on. System designs can now be focussed upon groups of systems rather than a stereotypical persona of a user. Assistive technology provides for individuals with highly specific needs. The concept of Design for All encourages us to widen our vision for design. Universal access to technology promises to increase access through the deployment of four themes:
- stakeholder control
The future of universal access is likely to be based upon a complex combination of (a) culturally sensitive user centred system design (b) design for key subsets of people (c) customisation by individual preference (d) adaptable system which can take an individual's profile as a starting point (e) adaptive systems which respond and change in the face of an individual's performance with a system and (f) assistive technology for unmet special needs. That is where the work of CIRCUA focuses.