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European Union Backs 3m Project To Develop Assistive Technology For Elderly And Disabled

• DIADEM will develop technology to help the elderly, and cognitively disabled use the web more effectively
• DIADEM addresses the EU Strategic Objective to promote eInclusion.

Brunel University will co-ordinate a €3million EU funded project called DIADEM to address the EU Strategic objective to promote eInclusion. The team will develop next generation assistive systems that empower persons with disabilities and aging citizens to play a full role in society, increase their autonomy and realize their potential.

The three-year project, starting today, will see the development of an Expert System that monitors the user and how they interact with web based forms. It will then adapt or personalise the computer interface to suit users' needs. The system will be located on the user's PC and will ensure that the many services available over the Internet are open and accessible to as many people as possible, privately and securely.

The technology will be developed jointly between the Norwegian National Computer Centre, Bluegarden, MORE and CSI Piemonte in Italy. Brunel University will lead initial investigations in Turin, Oslo and Sheffield to select the most effective technology features and strategies to achieve DIADEM's objectives. Further into the project, field trials of the software in the same three cities will take place. The software will be used in Turin and Sheffield to access services from the City Councils. In Oslo, Bluegarden will extend the technology into the work place, enabling inclusive access for all workers regardless of age or ability. Sheffield City Council will also address issues surrounding practical use of the technology in public places.

The elderly and cognitively disabled can suffer from poor concentration and loss of short-term memory, which means that they are more likely to lose track of where they are in a particular process or get lost in an online transaction. In addition, reduced problem solving skills and loss of mental flexibility mean that users are more likely to become frustrated by requests for input that are unexpected, irrelevant or apparently out of sequence. DIADEM will provide greater dialogue flexibility to counteract these issues and provide support to help users.

DIADEM will ultimately ensure that its users continue to be independent members of society. 4.5m people, 7.6% of the UK population, have reached the age where at least 1 in 10 will face the sort of problems described above. These numbers are set to grow as strokes, heart disease and growing levels of Type 2 diabetes threaten ever-younger members of the community.

“The DIADEM project is a great example of how technology can be used to improve inclusion in an increasingly digital society. Information and communication technology has become all pervasive in our home and working lives and it is more important now than ever before to ensure it benefits all members of society.“ says Antony Walker, Director of Strategy at Intellect.

Dr. Tony Elliman, School of Information Systems, Computing and Mathematics, Brunel University and DIADEM project co-ordinator says: “The elderly and disabled are finding it increasingly hard to remain active and independent members of society due to the rise in online transactions. For example, to purchase a train ticket online, you need to negotiate 11 screens, 18 selections and 8 typed in responses. For many, these services are unavailable due to short-term memory loss and confusion. It's these people that the DIADEM project will empower.“