Study on Universal Design of ICT in Ireland

Funka has recently completed an extensive research study into what Irish ICT professionals know about Universal Design. The study will help the National Disability Authority (NDA) develop new courses for professional development in the field.

Ireland has emerged as one of the world’s main ICT hubs. Many tech world giants have set up European bases in Dublin, operating alongside a dynamic local start-up community. To ensure that Ireland maintains its competitive edge in this area, domestic ICT professionals need to keep themselves abreast of new developments in the field.

In this context, Universal Design is of particular importance. Ireland puts a greater emphasis on Universal Design than most other EU countries – not least since the concept is defined and enshrined as a specific requirement in Irish law. But what does this requirement mean for people working in the increasingly important ICT sector?

To answer this question, Funka investigated what Irish ICT professionals know about Universal Design and what they still need to learn. The wide-ranging research was carried out on behalf of the NDA’s Centre for Excellence in Universal Design, with the support of the Irish Computer Society, and encompassed literature reviews, an online survey and a number of interviews with key stakeholders.

We found a very diverse situation on the ground, says Emil Gejrot, lead researcher for Funka. Although many had at least heard of accessibility or Universal Design, few had any real skills in the field. It’s clear that there is a need for professional development courses on this topic.

Funka presented the results at a workshop in Dublin, with representatives from the public, private and higher education sectors in attendance. In the longer term, Funka’s research and recommendations will be used by the NDA and the ICS as they set out to create new continuous professional development courses in Universal Design for ICT professionals.

For Funka, the assignment can be useful in other ways, too.

Our research has given us a much better understanding of the particular position of Universal Design in the Irish context, says Emil Gejrot. It has also allowed us to delve into how teaching in Universal Design should be offered to ICT professionals. Ultimately, what we’ve learned can be applied not just in Ireland, but elsewhere, too.

In fact, Funka’s experts are already putting these experiences to good use in an ongoing project aimed at developing higher education courses in web accessibility. In this Nordplus-funded project, Funka is sharing its new knowledge with IAAP, another project partner – thereby contributing to that organisation’s mission to promote accessibility and Universal Design skills around the world.

Funka’s assignment for the NDA lasted throughout 2018. It was submitted as a written report for the authority’s internal use in early 2019.

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Read more about the Nordplus project