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Michael Lightner


2009 IEEE Conference: Accessing the Future

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IEEE and IBM partnered on a new conference: Accessing the Future: A Global Collaborative Exploration for Accessibility in the Next Decade.  This conference was held at Northeastern University in Boston, MA on July 20-21, 2009.  There were 150 participants including leaders from government, industry, consumer and advocacy organizations and academia.  The focus of the conference was to identify key emerging technologies that would present barriers to people with disabilities and ask how to get ahead of the technology development so that they were accessible when available and not retrofit after introduction, as is mostly the case now.

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(L-R): 2009 IEEE Conference co-Chairs, Ms. Frances West, Director, IBM Human Ability & Accessibility Center and Dr. Michael Lightner, University of Colorado at Boulder

After a series of keynote and plenary presentations the attendees broke into four tracks: Standards and Universal Design, Patient-Centered Collaborative Care, Accessible Online Workplaces and Communities, and Transportation and Travel.  An expert panel in each track lead the discussion and the goal of each panel was to come up with ten key recommendations.  The conference as a whole received a report from each panel and then voted to prioritize the recommendations.  The top ten recommendations are given below.

Details on the conference are at and conference presentations and recommendations will be posted on this website by mid-August.

Top Ten Recommendations in rank order:

1.  In standards and universal design it is imperative that accessibility and the needs of people with disabilities are incorporated into the education of those who will generate future ICT.

2.  For online workplaces and communities it is critical to improve accessibility of MAINSTREAM collaboration technology making those tools more accessible, inclusive, and robust.

3.  In standards and universal design we must build accessibility into the ICT infrastructure so that it is a natural part of ICT, which anyone operating under constraints can invoke as they need it - including those with little or no resources.

4.  Patient-centered collaborative healthcare should leverage all available technologies to provide effective, efficient, error-free, timely, honest, and satisfying information transfer within and across institutions and between stakeholders.

5. For the continued success and wide spread adoption of online workplaces and communities it is necessary to enhance communications, awareness, training and education across the general society.

6. Patient-centric longitudinal medical records and care data should be standardized in a manner that facilitates secure but rapid sharing across all aspects of clinical care, public health policy, and practice.

7. In healthcare human factors (usability, accessibility, etc) must be designed into all systems to ensure that they are usable, effective, efficient, and satisfying to use by the persons intended to use them, and they should effectively capitalize on digital communication and social networking resources in a manner that safeguards individual and public interests.

8. For accessible travel and transportation it is imperative that information and physical systems be interoperability.

9. Accessible travel and transportation requires coordinated, standardized and accessible communication systems.

10. Standards and universal design require  tools and infrastructure that make it easier for companies to include access into their products and systems be built.

Dr. Michael Lightner is 2006 IEEE President; 2009 IEEE Conference co-Chair; Professor and Chair, Department of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, University of Colorado at Boulder