Moving towards inclusive design guidelines for socially and ethically aware HCI

2006-05-24T11:46:23Z (GMT) by Julio Abascal C.A. Nicolle
Most people acknowledge that personal computers have enormously enhanced the autonomy and communication capacity of people with special needs. The key factor for accessibility to these opportunities is the adequate design of the user interface which, consequently, has a high impact on the social lives of users with disabilities. The design of universally accessible interfaces has a positive effect over the socialisation of people with disabilities. People with sensory disabilities can profit from computers as a way of personal direct and remote communication. Personal computers can also assist people with severe motor impairments to manipulate their environment and to enhance their mobility by means of, for example, smart wheelchairs. In this way they can become more socially active and productive. Accessible interfaces have become so indispensable for personal autonomy and social inclusion that in several countries special legislation protects people from ‘digital exclusion’. To apply this legislation, inexperienced HCI designers can experience difficulties. They would greatly benefit from inclusive design guidelines in order to be able to implement the ‘design for all’ philosophy. In addition, they need clear criteria to avoid negative social and ethical impact on users. This paper analyses the benefits of the use of inclusive design guidelines in order to facilitate a universal design focus so that social exclusion is avoided. In addition, the need for ethical and social guidelines in order to avoid undesirable side effects for users is discussed. Finally, some preliminary examples of socially and ethically aware guidelines are proposed.