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European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics       ERCIM Working Group "User Interfaces for All"


The ERCIM Working Group "User Interfaces for All" (WG UI4ALL) was established in 1995 and closed in 2006. It has systematically promoted the proactive realisation of the Design for All principles in HCI. Its activities have included the organisation of a series of very successful workshops, that have contributed to consolidate recent work and stimulate further discussion on the state of the art in User Interfaces for All and its increasing range of applications in the upcoming Information Society. Such Workshops have brought together, in a new scientific community, researchers and teams working not only in the different ERCIM organisations, but also in organisations beyond ERCIM and the European boundaries, who share common interests and aspirations, and contribute to the endeavours towards making the Information Society equally accessible to all citizens.

The work of the ERCIM WG UI4ALL has led in 2001 to the establishment of the International Conference on Universal Access in Human-Computer Interaction (UAHCI), which takes place in the context of the HCI International Conference series. UAHCI has established an international forum for the dissemination and exchange of scientific information on theoretical, methodological and empirical research that addresses all issues related to the attainment of Universal Access in the development of interactive software, attracting participants from a broad range of disciplines and fields of expertise.

The work of the ERCIM WG UI4ALL has also contributed to the establishment of the international, interdisciplinary refereed journal "Universal Access in the Information Society" (UAIS), published by Springer. UAIS provides an archival publication channel for the discussion and advancement of theoretical and practical aspects of Universal Access in the Information Society, facilitating the rapid and wide diffusion of scientific and technological results that promote Universal Access in the Information Society; and stimulating cross-fertilization between the different contributing disciplines.

Many members of the ERCIM WG UI4ALL have also contributed to the edited book "User Interfaces for All concepts, methods and tools", the first book dedicated to the issues of Universal Design and Universal Access in HCI, published by Lawrence Erlbaum Associates in 2001. The book is a collection of 30 chapters written by leading international authorities, affiliated with academic, research and industrial organizations and non-market institutions, providing a comprehensive overview of the state of the art in the field, and including contributions from a variety of theoretical and applied disciplines and research themes.

Furthermore, the work of the ERCIM WG UI4ALL has contributed to the establishment of the International Scientific Forum "Towards an Information Society for All" ISF-IS4ALL (1997-2000), an international ad hoc group of experts which was the first one to recognise the need for a global approach towards an Information Society accessible, usable and acceptable by all citizens. Two White Papers have been published in the International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction and were also submitted to the European Commission, reporting on an evolving international R&D agenda in the field of HCI. Since then, the vision of an Information Society for All and the necessity for Universal Access to Information Society Technologies have acquired widespread acceptance and importance not only at a scientific and technological, but also at a European policy level, as demonstrated by the eEurope "Information Society for All" initiative of the European Commission. The activities initiated by the ISF-IS4ALL have been continued in the framework of the Thematic Network (Working Group) "Information Society for All" (IST-1999-14101 - IS4ALL), which has consolidated knowledge on Universal Access in the context of Information Society Technologies into a comprehensive validated code of design practice, leading to the publication by Springer, in 2005, of the edited book "Universal Access in Health Telematics - A Design Code of Practice", and has developed an on-line Training course in Design for All.

As a result of the 12 years of activities of the ERCIM WG "User Interfaces for All", the field of "Universal Access and Design for All" has made significant progress towards consolidating theoretical approaches, methods, tools and technologies, as well as exploring new application domains. The ERCIM WG UI4ALL, which was the recipient of the ERCIM WG Award for the year 2000, can be considered as an example of a dedicated, prolific and successful research and development community, which has highly contributed to the establishment in Europe of a new scientific field, that of "Universal Access and Design for All",.

As of the end of 2006, after the successful 9th Workshop, the time has come to consider the mission of this WG as fully accomplished. The papers presented during the 9th ERCIM "User Interfaces for All" Workshop demonstrate that Ambient Intelligence is raising new fascinating research challenges, rapidly gaining wide attention by an increasing number of researchers and practitioners in Europe and worldwide. The notions of Universal Access and User Interfaces for All are central to this vision, since Ambient Intelligence aims at providing implicit, unobtrusive interaction paradigms, putting people, their social situations, and the corresponding environments, at the centre of design considerations. These issues are now addressed by the new (established in 2006) ERCIM WG "Smart Environments and Systems for AMbient Intelligence" (SESAMI). The research community established by the ERCIM WG UI4ALL will therefore continue its collaborative efforts in the context of SESAMI.

Constantine Stephanidis


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