Prof. Miguel Sales Dias, Director MLDC, Microsoft, Prof. ISCTE
Academic participant: Prof. Dr.-Ing Dirk Elias, Executive Director FhP-AICOS, Fraunhofer Portugal Research Center for Assistive Information and Communication Solutions, Porto
Academic participant: Prof. Francisco Godinho, UTAD, Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Vila Real
Academic participant: Prof. Luis Figueiredo, Escola Superior de Tecnologia e Gestão, Guarda
Social Solidarity Institution participant: Dr. Vitor Reis, Director APPT21/Diferenças, Lisboa
Social Solidarity Institution participant: Dr.ª Paula Reis, Associação Salvador, Lisboa
Social Solidarity Institution participant: Dr. Rodrigo Nuno Godinho Santos, ACAPO - Associação dos Cegos e Amblíopes de Portugal, Pelouro das Acessibilidades
About 50 million people (10% of today’s European Union - EU population) are disabled. In Portugal, according to the 2001 Census, 6.1% of the population (636.059) presents at least one type of impairment. Among these disabilities, visual impairment is the most common (25.7%), followed by mobility impairment (24.6%), hearing impairment (13.2%), mental impairment (11.2%), cerebral palsy (2.4%) and other impairments (23%) . In a previous survey (1995), carried out in Portugal with different criteria (over a sample of population), 17.05% of 905.488 disabled people had speech and communication impairments. The severely speech and physical impaired (SSPI) people, who depend on Assistive Technology for their daily lives, include children with developmental language disorders, individuals with cerebral palsy and senior citizens who have had strokes or neurodegenerative diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Ageing is related with impairments (45% of the people aged 75 and over are impaired in their daily living activities) and the number of elderly people aged from 65 to 80 will rise by nearly 40% between 2010 and 2030 in the EU. By 2050, the number of elderly people (aged over 65) across the EU is estimated to increase from 16.4% in 2004 to 29.9%. The group of people over 80 will almost double by 2050. In Portugal, a similar trend is expected.
Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) play today a major role in our lives. However, ICT development which is mostly indifferent to the concerns of social inclusion, may raise barriers and increase the gap between the average user and those with special needs, instead of contributing to eliminating this gap and promoting equal rights and opportunities for all. Children with special needs, senior citizens and others with some level of impairments are often faced with multiple minor disabilities that prevent them from enjoying the benefits of technology and higher quality of life standards. If we speak of elderly people (over 65), it is clear that they currently show some resistance to the adoption of technology (only 10% of people over 65 use the Internet). But what about tomorrow’s elderly (middle-aged people, who are now in their 50s and 60s)? They will have used technology in the last one or two decades of their live, and due to their healthy lifestyles, they are likely to be kept physically, socially and cognitively active until their seventies or eighties and very willing to adopt innovative ICT solutions.