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RERC on Universal Interface & Information Technology Access
The Trace Center began receiving funding in 1983 from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), a division of the U.S. Department of Education, through a series of Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) grants. Through its RERC program, NIDRR provides five-year grants to conduct integrated research, development, training, and knowledge translation projects targeted at specific areas of technology that present barriers or potential opportunities for achievement of full inclusion and independence of people with disabilities. The current RERC on Universal Interface and Information Technology Access (UIITA-RERC, Grant Number H133E130028) began October 1, 2013 and will continue through September 30, 2018.
The UIITA-RERC is focused on accessibility of information and communication technologies for persons across disability types and socio-economic levels. Accessibility issues addressed by this RERC stem from the interaction of four trends in information technology:
- technology is increasingly required for all aspects of life (education, employment, health, safety, transportation, community participation, home management);
- accessibility solutions do not exist for many groups – especially people with non-“mainstream” disabilities;
- solutions that exist are often unaffordable; and,
- the number of different technology platforms, operating systems, and technology types that an individual must be able to use is increasing faster than assistive technology (AT) vendors can address.
The UIITA-RERC builds on and coordinates with the ongoing work of an international consortium (“Raising the Floor”) engaged in development of an underlying inclusive infrastructure that can greatly simplify accessibility and reduce costs for users and developers. This “Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure” (GPII) is designed to make assistive technologies and other access solutions available for many more users, much more efficiently and cost-effectively. Both the consortium and the GPII concept were originated in the prior RERC at the Trace Center.
The UIITA-RERC’s research and development activities include:
- Continuing development of the GPII concept – evolving it to address the changing technology landscape and our growing understanding of its role based on discussions with accessibility and mainstream stakeholders;
- Moving the GPII from concept, papers, and laboratory prototypes, through to field implementations to test the efficacy and viability of the concept with real-world conditions, users, and limitations/realities; specifically:
Development and testing of a package for deploying and applying the GPII in public libraries of all sizes, with a focus on providing libraries with cost-effective ways of serving users with a wider range of abilities – including those with cognitive, memory, and digital-literacy related barriers such as elders and first-time users;
- Development and testing of a decision support tool based on the GPII Unified Listing, that provides users and clinicians with a new capability for tracking and selecting ever-changing solutions for users – including not only comprehensive information on assistive technologies, but also not-previously-available information on the access features that are built into mainstream technologies.
- Facilitating and promoting access built directly into mainstream ICT products – through technology transfer programs and research support for industry standards groups and governmental agencies working on accessibility standards.