Nearly 1 in every 5 people will experience at some stage of their lives a disability or impairment. In most cases, this disability or impairment is or will become a determent to carry on daily routines or fully enjoy and access different aspects of their lives. Universal Accessibility implies a transversal approach to the living environment of people with disabilities and makes reference to the elimination of existing barriers from the daily life of these people. These barriers can be related to communication, social life, physical environment, access to public services and employment, and transportation among others.
Digital and mobile technologies have contributed in the recent years to the promotion of Design for All and Universal Accessibility by providing new and innovative concepts in the form of services and products. However, their potential has not been fully addressed as the common lack of consideration of cognitive accessibility during the design and set up of mobile and digital services and products shows. A lot more can be done in supporting and empowering people with disabilities to live more independently and have a more fulfilling life.
It has been estimated by the World Health Organization that 15-19% of the world population older than 15 years old have a moderate or severe disability, affecting between 785 and 975M of people. Overall, disability affects 11% more women than men and in addition to this, the responsibility of looking after family members with disabilities is mostly taken up by women, showing how gender considerations also matter when addressing the needs of people with disabilities and their supporting environments and networks.
People with disabilities are more affected by poverty, in part influenced by the difficulty to access education services and the labour market. The risk of poverty affects 32% of the population with disabilities in Spain, nearly 5% higher than the general population. Families also have to pay for supporting services, spending in average, 29-37% of their income in Australia and 20-37% in Ireland, representing an additional economic burden on the families.
Another study on employment carried by the United Nations showed that in developing countries, about 80-90% of people with disabilities are unemployed or outside the work force, being this percentage reduced to 50-70% in industrialized countries. In the case of Spain, unemployment affects 63% of people with disabilities that are within working age. The living, working and support conditions of people with disabilities have strongly worsen in Europe over the last few years due to the reduction of the public budgets allocated to these collectives.
In 2008, the Spanish Institute of Statistics calculated that 8,5% of the Spanish population had a disability. This implies 3.8M of people from which over 600,000 leave alone in their houses and 1.39M have a high degree of dependence and cannot do basic daily activities without support.
This challenge aims to find truly disruptive and innovative solutions that can empower and have a positive impact in the lives of people with disabilities in aspects that can vary from access to education and the labour market, health and public services, or enjoyment of novel services that take into account areas so diverse as the management of emotions, or the safe access and use of mobile technologies by children with disabilities. By strengthening the role played by digital and mobile technologies and supporting the development of new and innovative services, barriers to access more personalised, financially accessible, and non-geographic bounded services can be overcome.