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Overview of GPII Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure

Building Accessibility and Extended Usability Directly Into the Internet's Infrastructure

PURPOSE OF A GPII

To ensure that everyone who faces accessibility barriers due to disability, literacy, or aging, regardless of economic status, can use the Internet and all its information, communities, and services for education, employment, daily living, civic participation, health and safety.

METHOD

By creating an inclusive software infrastructure that consists of:

  • an awareness program to ensure that all who need these features are aware of them and how to access both free and commercial aids;

  • a secure personalization profile system - that allows users” access features to be automatically invoked and set up for them, as well as evaluation “wizards” to help people identify the features that will work for them;

  • a virtual delivery system - that allows any person to call up the access assistive technologies and extended-usability features they need on any Internet connected computer they encounter, anytime, anywhere;

  • a rich development environment with open-source modules and services that reduces costs and lowers entry barriers for development of both commercial and free public access features;

  • a set of technologies and policies that protect author rights while allowing people to access information and services in a form they can perceive and use.


The Need for a Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure (GPII)

The ability to access and use broadband technologies is moving from important to essential for effective participation in our society. The growing use of the Internet in employment, education, government services, and the marketplace has led to a corresponding reduction in other means of accessing those arenas. Today the ability to use information and communication technologies (ICT) is required in order to get and keep many or most jobs. Some companies only allow online job applications. Many colleges and universities are requiring their students to have computers, and are providing textbooks and class materials only on-line. Some are moving to eBooks instead of printed textbooks. State and local government agencies are increasingly using websites to provide services; even libraries have gone online. Stores that are available only on-line (e.g., Amazon.com, Zappos.com, Overstock.com) are more and more prevalent and may be the only means of obtaining many items outside of larger cities.

If broadband technologies are no longer optional in our society, then everyone needs to be included or we will have an increasing “digital divide” due to disability, aging, and low literacy.

If access to and use of broadband technologies is important for the general population to be active, employed, and contributing members of their communities, it is equally important for people with disabilities, people who are elderly, and people with low literacy. In addition, it is in the nation”s financial interest for these individuals to stay engaged, productive, independent and healthy. It is therefore important from both a fairness and economic basis that our broadband access efforts include sufficient efforts to ensure that these groups are able to access the Internet. If not the digital divide for these groups will grow, increasing exclusion for these groups from employment, education, civic and social participation, and health care.

Existing and potential access solutions.

An estimated 40 million people in the US face barriers to use of Information and communication technologies, content and services due to disability, aging or low literacy. Some of the existing or potential interface options and features that could provide these individuals with access include:

  • For people with low literacy or for whom English is a second language – a “right-click on word or phrase for language assistance” feature (definitions or alternate versions in simpler language), translation, read aloud, and “highlight and read” features could provide access to text they cannot ordinarily read, – and techniques are available that could assist users with literacy problems in learning to read at the same time they are able to access the content and use content the need today.

  • For people with low vision - color and contrast enhancement, text magnification, font switching, text-to-speech, and voice activation of controls are some features that can provide access.

  • For people who are blind - screen reading (which allows users to navigate the screen without vision and have it read aloud to them), and audible menus can provide access through voice output, and voice activation of controls and the ability to connect a refreshable Braille display can provide alternate input and tactile display options.

  • For people who are hard of hearing or deaf – captioning, adjustable volume, visual equivalents for audible warnings can provide alternate ways for them to receive information provided auditorially.

  • For people with intellectual disabilities - simplified interfaces and controls, language assistance (definitions or alternate versions in simpler language), color and contrast schemes, and page and content simplifiers could put content within their reach.

  • For people with manual dexterity impairments – keyboard access to all functions, keyboard operated mouse functions, voice control, and alternate keyboards, mice and other input means could allow access by those who cannot operate the standard hardware.

  • For people with learning/reading disabilities – point and read, read aloud, color and contrast schemes, visual tracking aids, and highlighting could help them work around the specific problem that blocks their access.

  • For aging individuals - simplified interfaces and controls, text magnification, text-to-speech and screen reading, color and contrast schemes, volume controls, hearing aid compatibility, and captioning, -- could provide ways for them to access the Internet in a format that is a natural extension of the product rather than seen as a “special” interface.

Assistive technologies and interface features such as those above could make information and communication technologies, and the rich set of information and services on the Internet, accessible to these users. Some are available today for those that can afford them, but the potential for new assistive technologies and features that can address more people from these groups, and more affordably, has yet to be tapped. Assistive technologies and features could, and should, be developing and expanding as quickly as mainstream information and communication technologies. And they could, and should, be affordable for all. But they currently are neither available for all, nor affordable by all. Nor are they able to keep up.1

Barriers to Robust and Affordable Access

Six barriers to effective and affordable access by people facing obstacles due to disabilities, aging, or low literacy are:

  1. Assistive technology costs: Currently, because of the large development costs, the small market, and the need for individualization, many of the robust assistive technologies capable of handling modern Internet content are prohibitively expensive, even for many individuals who can afford computers and other technology devices. As a result, employers, educators, government agencies, businesses, and individuals face prohibitively high costs for accommodations that must be continually updated to provide access to mainstream technologies and services that are themselves continually changing. We need to help lower the cost to develop and keep assistive technologies compatible with ever changing mainstream technologies.

  2. Limited selection of assistive technology and accessibility/usability features that is unable cover the full range of needs, including people with vision, hearing, motor, language, literacy, and intellectual disabilities - and all combinations of them. Currently, assistive technology focuses on people with specific “disabilities” (e.g., a person who has vision disabilities but does not have intellectual disabilities) without addressing people with other impairments or multiple impairments. Solutions for those with deaf-blindness for example are few and expensive, and solutions for people with cognitive, language, and learning disabilities do not begin to cover the diversity of this group.

  3. Lack of awareness of assistive technology and accessibility/usability features: Because of small markets and limited marketing capabilities of individual AT companies, awareness of the existence of access features by those who need them is limited. Even features that are built into operating systems and available to everyone without cost are mostly unknown to those who need them.

  4. Lack of tools and support for the development of assistive technologies and extended-usability features, sufficient to ensure that developers can keep up with mainstream technology, continue to improve solutions, keep costs down, and still make a profit.

  5. Lack of cross-platform operability and portability of assistive technology and accessibility/usability features. Computing is becoming ubiquitous. Computers are already beginning to be built into the environment around us (through cell phones, kiosks, information and transactions machines, and other devices), and this will continue and accelerate. We need ubiquitous accessibility/usability to match, or computing will evolve away from our accessibility solutions.

  6. Insufficient or weak free, public access features: Because many individuals with disabilities, elderly people, and people with low literacy fall into the lowest-income categories, robust commercial assistive technology is often not affordable for them. Many cannot even afford a computer or Internet connection and rely on public access to the Internet, often through libraries, public access points, government programs, or by using the computers of those around them. For these groups a (free) public, basic level of accessibility/usability is needed to use these (free) public Internet access points. Accessibility that is good enough to not be stymied by the new technologies being introduced continually on the Internet.

The GPII plus a Rich Development Ecosystem

We can build, directly into the information infrastructure, the capability for people to call up the interface features or adaptations they need, anytime, anywhere, on any device they encounter. And because this capability can support both commercial assistive technologies and free public access features, everyone could have affordable basic access to the Internet and its resources.

The Gobal Public Inclusive Infrastructure would be a systematic building of accessibility directly into the nation”s broadband infrastructure so that anyone, anywhere could approach any computer or mobile computing device and be able to invoke the interface features they need.

And we can do it in a way that makes all assistive technologies more robust and less expensive, that stimulates innovation and new developments, that increases the market, and that makes it easier for everyone to learn about and use these technologies.

The overall proposed approach would consist of two parts

  1. The Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure (GPII) that provides the basic structure, tools, resources, and security needed to facilitate development and support delivery of a virtual (anytime anywhere any computer) access features and services; [largely publicly funded] and

  2. A Rich Development Ecosystem for accessibility products and features, consisting of commercial AT companies, mainstream ICT companies, free and open source developers, and individual consumers, researchers, and others developing a diverse collection of different commercial and public accessibility products and features that can be made available on demand via the Internet. [ largely privately funded]

The Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure (GPII) would be largely publicly funded software enhancement of the Internet/web infrastructure and provide

  1. A mechanism for virtual distribution of both commercial AT and free public access features such that anyone can invoke the access features (commercial and free) that they need on any computing device they encounter, anytime, anywhere -- based on their preference and permission profile. A key component of this delivery mechanism will be security, privacy, and protection from mal-ware for individual users and the security of the Internet through thorough vetting of both commercial and free public software that is distributed through the system.

  2. A mechanism for personal preference and permission profiles that allows individuals to create, store and use (in a secure and private manner) information that specifies what types of interface features they need and are entitled to use -- and that allows these access features to be invoked and set up for them automatically.

  3. An open source set of tools and a rich development environment that allows AT manufacturers, mainstream ICT companies, free and open source developers, researchers, consumers and other professionals to all build more diverse and inter-compatible alternate interfaces and services for less cost. This includes both a rich set of open-source accessibility/usability development tools, and components and services that can be used to build commercial and free access features, technologies and services. These tools can help address many of the problems that hold back innovation in this field including; the high technical start-up costs for new developers; the large amount of duplicated work by each separate developer in creating their own interfaces to mainstream ICT; the lack of interoperability between products from different AT vendors; and the inability of users or developers to create and sell extensions to existing AT to introduce new features or capabilities.

  4. An aggressive Awareness Program - to ensure that everyone who faces barriers to Internet use, or who just acquired a disability, is aware that solutions exist, and where to find them.  

     

These tools and resources will mostly be open source, but will be licensed so that proprietary products can be built using them.

  1. A rich, diverse, and ongoing outreach/awareness program to ensure that all those who need interfaces options and features are aware that they exist, and can be used on the systems around them.

  2. A set of technologies and copyright policies that protect authors and distributors” rights while allowing people to access information and services in the form they can perceive and use.

The GPII itself would not develop end user interfaces but would only provide the infrastructure and tools. The alternate user interfaces and features would be developed by the ecosystem of developers.

The Rich Development Ecosystem for accessibility products and features would be privately funded (except for government grants for research efforts) and would include:

  1. Commercial AT manufacturers (existing, new and smaller)
  2. Mainstream ICT companies
  3. Free and Open Source developers
  4. Researchers
  5. Consumers and their families, employers, service providers, and businesses
  6. Professionals in the field
  7. Other countries and cultures

The development ecosystem would create the specific interface features and assistive technologies. Some of these features would be created by mainstream ICT vendors who would use the GPII to facilitate building more inclusive interface features (or support for external features) directly into their mainstream products. Some would be created through the free and open source developers as free public access features. Some would be created by commercial assistive technologies vendors who would use the GPII to lower their cost for development and provide them with a means for ubiquitous delivery of their enhanced accessibility tools.

This development ecosystem would be made up of the same entities that are creating access solutions today. The difference is that the current costs to enter the market and keep up with mainstream technologies are so high that most of those who could potentially contribute are not able to. With the GPII in place (including its tools, delivery system and awareness program) the ability of new and smaller players to participate and move ideas to market successfully will be enormously enhanced. And existing AT vendors will benefit from lower costs to maintain products built from GPII components as well as the distribution system and the awareness program. The result will be a much more dynamic and diverse market with more new ideas and faster response to mainstream developments.

A few analogies can help in understanding the GPII, its role, and how it would work:

Like a road system – the GPII will, like the nation”s interstate highway system, provide the backbone delivery infrastructure that both commercial and public services can use. Like the road system, it is not something that individual users or companies (or states) could finance or do on their own – or even a group of them working together. Although the GPII is not a hardware infrastructure (but a software/service one) it too cannot be done by individual companies. An international effort is required.

Like the Internet – the GPII is an infrastructure that can be used by both public and private entities to deliver their goods and services. Rather than being a freestanding physical infrastructure, however, the GPII is an enhancement to the software infrastructure of the Internet/Web. In the same way the Internet today facilitates the transport and use of data, communication and services, the GPII will extend the ability of the Internet to facilitate the transport and availability of specialized interface features (commercial and free) to meet diverse user needs.

Like the iPhone and Android development systems – the GPII will also provide a rich set of development tools and common components from which technology developers of all types (commercial, nonprofit, individual) can build applications. Instead of fostering a diverse set of creative new applications to run on the iPhone (or Android phone) however, the GPII development tools will enable a diverse set of creative new access features and services to better meet the needs of more people with different types of disabilities or literacy or aging related barriers. Like what has occurred as a result of the iPhone and Android development and deliver systems, we expect the GPII to enable new accessibility and extended usability features that no one has even thought of today and a variety not seen today.

The GPII will also provide its own “app store” of a sort where users can find different access features and services to meet their individual needs and constraints. Like the iPhone (and Android) application store, this “access feature and service” store will include both commercial and free public access features and services. Like the app store, this “access features and services store” will also provide companies large and small (as well as individuals and organizations) with a simple mechanism to reach a very wide market at essentially no cost.

The result of Apple using this approach (easy to use development tools and a rich library of code modules) with the iPhone (and now emerging with Google and Android) has been rapid and extraordinarily diverse development of creative applications at all price levels. Also, by providing a common well-known and high volume distribution mechanism, individuals can sell things even at low cost and make substantial revenue. A Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure will operate similarly – facilitating outside development of accessibility/usability applications and assisting in making the applications available to a wide range and large number of end users.

The Roles of Government Funding and Private Competition

The Role of Government

The GPII, under public funding, will provide those central core facilities that cannot be provided by individual companies or organizations. The GPII will provide a cross-technology (and cross-vendor) delivery mechanism that allows users to call up free access features and mix them with commercial AT (from different vendors) as needed to meet the users” needs. The GPII will also provide a set of tools and common code modules that can be used across companies (and by researchers, users etc) to both lower the cost to develop access features and increase their interoperability with each other and with mainstream technologies.

However, the proposed GPII will not directly develop access features (free or commercial). Instead the GPII will do those common things that benefit all and cannot be done by individual players (e.g. provide the tools, common code modules and common virtual delivery system) that can both reduce the cost of commercial AT and facilitate the development and dissemination of free and open source basic access features. But it will leave it up to the rich ecosystem of commercial AT companies, mainstream ICT, users, the open source community, researchers, and others to create the solutions.

Capitalizing on Competition and Private Enterprise

Thus the GPII model provides the infrastructure but still leaves it up to the rich marketplace to develop all of the accessibility features and assistive technologies. It is anticipated that a certain level of free public access features will result. We see some of this today with increasing access features appearing in mainstream operating systems (Windows, Mac OS, iPhone) and open source access features. With the GPII we expect a richer set that is not tied to individual platforms and that addresses a wider range of disabilities and combinations of disabilities.

Only where this competitive ecosystem cannot address the needs of particular groups over time would the government need to step in to ensure that specific types of access solutions are available. And this would not be done through the GPII but through separate actions (research funding, commercial incentive or some other method) targeted just at the problem area.

Benefits of a GPII (and invigorated Development Ecosystem)

The Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure would be an international resource that would benefit both commercial AT vendors and mainstream ICT companies as well as providing a platform for those interested in developing free and open source technologies.

This represents a broad public-private partnership, including small and large companies as well as publicly and privately funded R&D, and individual entrepreneurs. In addition, innovation would be able to more easily flow directly from people with disabilities and those working with them.

A Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure can provide a “tipping point” to address these needs by:

  • Lowering the cost to develop new types of assistive technology and new built-in “extended usability” features

  • Increasing the number and variety of developers and invigorating the field

  • Reducing the financial burden on innovation and change

  • Facilitating the development of access for underserved disability populations

  • Reducing delay in assistive technology development

  • Providing a mechanism to create “ubiquitous” accessibility to match technology as it is evolving.

  • Increasing awareness of accessibility technologies beyond specific disability groups and, thus, increasing the market for accessibility features.

  • Lowering the cost to governments, businesses, employers, and others who need to provide access to all they serve.

  • Making it easier (less expensive and more realistic) for libraries and other public access points to serve all patrons.

  • Providing tools that can be used by developing countries that otherwise would not have a rich set (or any) access technologies for their citizens.

The GPII has the potential to reinvent our approach to accessibility, universal design, and assistive technology for information and communication technologies in the same way that the Internet caused a reinvention of information technology and the iPhone, with its development tools and App Store, reinvented smart phones and mobile information/communication technologies.

The GPII can break open the field, greatly accelerate innovation, and help move new ideas from research labs to availability to and use by people who need it. It can allow consumers, clinicians, researchers and others with new ideas and different approaches to be able to participate more directly resulting in better interfaces for individuals with more types, degrees and accommodations of disability.

The GPII can help to lower the per capita costs of developing accessibility/usability features and assistive technology by providing a common base from which to start, reducing duplicated efforts around compatibility with new mainstream technologies, and by increasing the market for accessible products though general awareness campaigns and widespread use.

It can allow us to move away from the concept of special “assistive technologies” and “disability access features” as we know them today and toward (commercial) alternate interfaces and “inclusive design” which provide more interface options for everyone - interfaces that work for people having trouble using products due to disability, literacy or age related problems. It could also help people who just want a simpler interface, have a temporary disability, want access when their eyes are busy doing something else, want to rest their hands or eyes, want to access information in an “enforced silence” or very noisy environment, etc. The GPII does not single out people with disabilities or those who are older because of their disabilities or functional limitations, but rather provides interfaces that they can use, allowing them to use the Internet as they find it – with access and extended-usability features available as part of it.

The GPII approach can also help future-proof all people by creating and advancing "Ubiquitous Accessibility" to address the new accessibility problems that will be (and already are being) presented by ubiquitous and cloud computing.   

But most of all, the GPII gives us our first and perhaps only chance to provide meaningful access to all those who need access including those with little or no resources or connections to secure commercial assistive technologies that are good enough to work with the new mainstream technologies emerging on the Web and those coming in the future.

This is universal or inclusive design at it best. And something almost all of us will need if we live long enough.

Imagine…

  • a person who can’t read is able to go up to any computer and have any content, including button labels, read to them by just pointing to them or asking docs to be read. As it reads it highlights what is being read and provides support to help the person learn to read – at the same time it is providing access now.

  • a senior citizen who cannot see or hear well is able to use the Internet from any computer at her living center, or one of her children”s homes, or when she travels, without having to install anything special. She just types in a URL on the computer and it automatically sets up for her. And since everyone is using it – she doesn’t feel like it is a “disability thing”.

    (Her friend, who cannot remember codes or URLs, uses a USB with a fingerprint reader on it. He just inserts it in a computer, swipes his finger across it and it automatically calls up the features and programs he needs)

  • a worker who needs assistive technology software with special features is able to purchase the software once and is able to invoke and use it on any computer -- at work, at a satellite office, at home, or on the road.

  • a child with a disability from a poor neighborhood, who cannot afford a computer much less assistive technology, is able to use any computer he can find (at a school, the library or the community center) just like his peers without disabilities because the special access features the child needs can be called up on any computer.

  • a person with cognitive disability, or who is older and having a hard time using any computers in their standard form, is able to just plug a small USB key she carries on a keychain into any computer, and the world of the Internet opens up to her in a form she can use.

  • people who are deaf-blind (or have another low incidence condition or combination of conditions) have access features available for them because the cost to develop and disseminate the features is low enough that people can afford to create features even for low incidence markets.

  • a person who is blind who encounters a site the requires a visual task to be completed for access –can call up a visual assistant (a human) and have them assist for 10 seconds to break through the barrier.

  • people in a country that previously had AT for only certain disabilities, can invoke a rich array of different access features for different disability or literacy barriers directly from the Internet. The technologies area available because the country could localize the access solutions developed in other countries and make them available on their GPII.

  • a time in the not too distant future when computers are not things we need to carry with us but are built into everything around us. And those who cannot use the interfaces on the ubiquitous computers can invoke whatever interface features they need in order to access the devices, interfaces, services, etc around them.

Reducing the Burden on Authors and Developers

Benefits to Web Authors and Developers

The lack of effective and affordable assistive technologies increases the burden on authors and developers of both web applications and content. Creating an accessible web page or application involves either designing it so that it can be directly accessed by people with the full range of types, degrees, and combinations of disability, or ensuring that it will work with the assistive technologies that these individuals have. A Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure will help to lower the per capita costs of developing accessibility/usability features and assistive technology by providing a common base from which to start, reducing duplicated efforts around compatibility with new mainstream technologies, and by increasing the market for accessible products though general awareness campaigns and ubiquitous presence.

  • Commercial assistive technology companies can use the components to reduce cost, increase compatibility with new technologies (and with other AT), and free up development funds to innovate. They will also be able to use the distribution system to make their AT available anytime, anywhere to those who purchase it. Finally they can benefit from the larger market that the awareness campaign and ubiquity of use will generate.

  • New assistive technology companies will be able to get started more easily, by building from existing modules rather than having to start from scratch when creating new features and new types of AT for different disabilities. A new market will also be created for “Micro AT” (individual features or add-ons that can be sold to extend or adapt the existing free public access features for particular disabilities or uses).

  • Mainstream technology companies can participate directly in ways not possible with proprietary assistive technologies. The open source nature of the work allows mainstream companies to better ensure that their new technologies and special products are compatible with free public access features and any commercial AT that is built on these common components.

  • Open Source developers can develop new access features and approaches and then release them for use and improvement by others. Some of these products can then be sold commercially by the developers or others, often packaged with other products or with support. Because they are open source, all are also available as free products or features.

Increasing Participation of Researchers and Other Contributors

  • Researchers can use the open source and modular nature of GPII to explore new approaches and to test new ideas. Rather than having to build an entire prototype in order to test an idea, they would be able to easily modify or extend existing software (or even contract with project programmers if they are not themselves programmers) to create a field-testable version of their solution. Those ideas that work can also be transferred much more easily into common publicly available access features or commercial products in ways not possible before. The result is more exploration, more options, and better solutions for a wider range of disabilities, literacy problems, languages and content types.

  • Consumers and friends can directly participate in the design of next generation accessibility and have the ability to directly impact what is available to them and their peers. Using either their own skills and the GPII tools, or using their own knowledge and enlisting someone with the needed programming skills, they can explore and design their own approaches to access technologies or create entirely new types of products.

  • Professionals in the field can similarly use their knowledge of their clients to propose and commission new access ideas and techniques and see them realized in a fashion that can be used by their clients and others nationally and internationally.

Reducing the Burden on Government and Society

  • The government is already funding access – but at higher cost and in a way that serves only a small percentage of those who need it. Most of the cost for assistive technology is borne by society in the form of public payments for the purchase of assistive technologies or services. The GPII can provide access to more people at a lower cost per person, and thus it is a far wiser use of government funds.

  • Society. In addition, it is estimated that the costs for individuals who do not have the technologies they need to live more independently (that is the cost for people becoming dependent sooner) results in even greater cost to society than the assistive technologies. Increasing availability of assistive technologies reduces the societal cost of reduced productivity.

  • Other governments can better ensure that disability and literacy access features are available for the diversity of abilities, languages and cultures in their countries, and they can better afford efforts to ensure that these features are available to people at all economic levels in their countries. One of the powerful benefits of this approach is the ability for most of the infrastructure to be either borrowed or replicated by other countries to provide access for people in their language and cultures. The GPII tools will be designed specifically to support localization (adaptation to different languages, fonts, right-left/left-right/top-down reading directions, etc. This allows both support for other countries” efforts in the area, and a way to benefit from other countries” efforts in improving the GPII technologies themselves and in creating support for more languages that would be used by minority groups and cultures within our country.

  • A Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure can also evolve though a collaboration of the individual country-funded GPIIs. By developing common code, delivery, and support technologies, the cost to all countries can be reduced and developing countries can duplicate and localize this common code and service base for their countries putting generic access within their reach.

The GPII approach can also help future-proof all people by creating and advancing "Ubiquitous Accessibility" to address the new accessibility problems that will be (and already are being) presented by ubiquitous and cloud computing.   

But most of all, the GPII gives us our first and perhaps only chance to provide meaningful access to all those who need access including those with little or no resources or connections to secure commercial assistive technologies that are good enough to work with the new mainstream technologies emerging on the Web and those coming in the future.

Implementation Plan – Building a GPII

Implementation team for the development of the GPII

The Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure will be developed through collaboration between government, the scientific community, commercial and non-commercial mainstream and assistive technology developers and vendors, and end-users. All are critical to the development of the GPII.

  • Mainstream IT companies - will be used heavily in creating the infrastructure and underlying technology components. The GPII must be “commercially sound and robust” or it would both be useless (unreliable) for users with disabilities and dangerous (unstable and insecure) for the Internet. It must also work well with mainstream technologies to be effective.

  • Assistive Technology Developers – will be one of the key users in the distribution system. They also are the group that will be most impacted by the creation of such a system. Although the GPII will reduce the need for some types of AT, it can increase the demand for other types, reduce their costs, and enable new types of AT products and services. It will be important to design the system to maximize its value to the group.

  • Free and Open Source Developers – are another key user of the GPII. We will be depending on this group to provide much of the free basic access features. The GPII will also be a mechanism for them to be able to make their developments more known and available. The FOSS community also has much existing technology and code that can be used for part of the GPII.

  • Government Agencies – are often thought of as just funders or customers. In fact, many of the larger ones have extensive expertise and personnel that deal with accessibility either full or part time. Although we expect that government agencies would rely primarily on commercial AT and commercially supported technologies, government agencies can provide valuable input and help shape the GPII to work well for them and the constraints (including privacy and security) that they must work within.

  • Researchers – will be the source of many future access technologies and new capabilities. The GPII will be designed to both support R&D efforts and to help bridge the often-cited “Valley of Death”2 for new ideas that exists between completion of research and any chance of commercial or general public use.

  • Users /Customers – individuals with a variety of disabilities, age-related impairments, and literacy levels, as well as employers, content providers, businesses, and educators, will be incorporated at all levels from design through development and testing. The most critical aspect will be creating an infrastructure that is both useful and friendly enough to actually be usable by these diverse groups.

Phase 1

The objective of phase one is to get affordable access solutions out to all the public access points and to begin development of the tools and people infrastructure needed to build the long-term solution.

Some of the key aspects that the work in this phase will focus on include:

  • The development of the Personal Preference and Permission Profiles (both generic and custom). This will involve coordinating between several standards bodies that are working together on different parts of the problem. It will also include significant work on privacy and security issues around this topic.

  • The development of evaluation Wizards. These will be software programs that will help determine which features and settings will be of most benefit to different users. The wizards must be both simple to use and interesting for the users in order to be effective. The use of Wizards is key to simplifying an otherwise complex task for users.

  • Interim AT delivery Systems. While the "ubiquitous delivery" system is being architected and built - the GPII can rely on existing methods for delivery including  Downloadable, virtual and USB based access solutions.   This will include packages of AT and access features that can be downloaded and installed on public access or personal computers. Individuals would automatically activate the proper software and features for themselves through use of the Personal Preference and Permission Profiles.  We will also be developing a version that has all the software on a USB memory stick in a fashion that allows it to be run from the stick without any installation on the computer. This would allow users to carry their profiles and their access software about with them for use on computers they encounter. (Smartphones can also be used to store the software and act like a USB for this purpose.)

  • Support Network for Public Access Points. A network will be established to support Public Access Points who are using the solutions from this project – both from phase 1 and phase 2.

  • Development of a unified Marketplace where user can find all solution types. Unlike existing marketplaces that only list products for one vendor or distributor or technology, the unified marketplace would provide a way to find all solutions for all technologies, platforms, vendors, open-source, proprietary, commercial and free.  It would also include all of the features that are built into products that may also meet a users needs but they may be unaware of.   A special 'recommender' function can use the person's needs and preferences profile to help the user find the most relevant features and products from all that are available for all disabilities. 

  • Public Awareness Campaign. One of the major barriers to development and use of accessibility technology is lack of awareness, resulting in underutilization. The ubiquitous existence of the Infrastructure will make it inherently more discoverable and usable. A diverse, and ongoing outreach/awareness program will ensure that all those who need special interfaces are aware that they exist, can be used on the systems around them, and are available.

Phase 2

Phase two will be carried out in parallel with phase 1. Its goal is to develop and then deploy the Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure as described.

Some of the key aspects of the work in this phase will be:

  • Creation of the virtual delivery system.
  • Creation of the secure, virtual, preference, permission and payment profile system

  • Work with Mainstream Operating System vendors to create key functions in the operating systems that can support virtual access technologies – using the client computer to carry as much of the load as possible, speeding up performance and lowering the cost of access technologies

  • Creation of a rich “iPhone/Android-like” toolset and development environment

  • Creation of total virtual fallback solutions for legacy systems and completely closed client systems

  • Work with security experts on procedures and methods for review of access applications from 3rd parties, and for closed systems that can operate completely behind corporate firewalls to ensure corporate privacy.


1 National Task Force on Technology and Disability. (2004). Within our reach: Findings and recommendations of the national task force on technology and disability. Retrieved October 24, 2006 from http://ntftd.com/.

2 The “valley of death” for research has been used to describe the difficulties and lack of resources that result in relatively few research results (even good ones) making it out of the lab and into common practice or commercial production. See http://www.nsf.gov/attachments/111302/public/5-Pancake.pdf http://www.nsf.gov/attachments/114545/public/Industry_University_Partnerships.pdf