No to demand for account on Universal Design

The Norwegian Research Council turns down the proposal from the Resource Network for Universal ICT to require that applications for research funding account for Universal Design.

Story by: - 27.06.2008

When one applies research funding from the Norwegian Research Council today, one is required to account for if and how  ethical issues related to privacy, gender issues and environmental consequences relates to the research (Research Ethics checklist). The Resource Network for Universal ICT preferred to see universal design included on this checklist. If so, accounting for universal design would have become a general criterion for all ICT-projects that was to receive future funding from the Norwegian Research Council.


This proposal has now been turned down by the Norwegian Research Council: "It involves significant resources to write and evaluate applications. The Research Council, therefore, strive to facilitate this work so it can be done as efficiently as possible. For this reason, we are very restrictive with regards to extending the requirements to the project applications by, for example, adding new assessment criteria. It is also the case that many project applications is turned down. On this basis, we do not consider it appropriate to impose a general requirement for all ICT projects."

The Norwegian Research Council feels the resources necessary to evaluate the accounts on universal design will be too large.  Due to a focus on effeciency, they view the proposal as inappropriate, and specifiy that because of these focus they are generally restrictive to adding new application appliassessment.

The Resource Network for Universal ICT understand the need for efficient processing of prosject applications. Nevertheless, a general demand for universal design of ICT projects is important to promote knowledge and awareness of universal design, and to force the manufacturers of IT solutions to address universal design.

Inclusive Digital Society

Universal design is considered in selected ICT projects. We believe that if the Government's goal of an inclusive digital society shall be reached, universal design must be considered in most ICT projects, and reflection and accountance of universal design must be required in all ICT projects. The Norwegian Research Council focuses on the efficient processing of applications, and they explain their decision, adding: "Relevant programs within the Research Council ensures that the necessary respect for universal design is taken care of in projects that address relevant products and services."

Far more relevant

The Resource Network for Universal ICT is highly sceptical to this conlusion. The Resource Network believes it is inexpedient to limit the consideration of universal design to selected programs.  Disabled user group requirements are not sufficiently considered in society today, and these requirements are far more relevant to society than the Norwegian Research Council base their decision on. In our assessment, the consideration of universal design is at least as relevant as the other checkpoints: gender, ethics and the environment. This is at the core of The Resource Network's proposal for a general requirement on universal design. We would also like to point out that the EU's Strukturfond recently posted a general requirement of universal design for all projects that are supported by the fund.                                                               

We continue working

It is still a national goal that products and services developed should be usable by the general population, including people with various disabilities. The Resource Network for Universal ICT  will continue working towards this goal, and therefore continue working to adding the criteria for universal design in Governmentally supported research projects. Awareness of universal design must be generally promoted in ICT. If you really want an inclusive digital society, few products and services exist where considering accessibility for disabled is not relevant. The Resource Network still believe that the proposal should be taken under advisement, and that it is necessary that universal design is addressed in IT projects on a general basis:

  1. That such a requirement would effectively create a focus on universal design.
  2. That it will ensure universal design in ICT research projects - not only where universal design or accessibility of all is a stated focus.

The Resource Network  thus considers the proposal appropriate to fulfill the Government's aspirations for universal design, and will continue working for the acceptance of a broader application of the consideration of universal design of ICT.

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