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Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC)
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Access Programme

The objective of the Access Programme is to promote the development, availability and dissemination of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) instruments that enable citizens with special needs, namely the disabled, the elderly and the bedridden, to overcome their difficulties.

Access Programme -

It also aims to reduce difficulties that may be caused by ICT spreading to the most wide-ranging of aspects of human activities where people with disabilities find it impossible to use these technologies, as can happen with school and work documents, Internet content, multimedia applications, mobile communication and digital television equipment, for instance.

This programme continues the work carried out by the Access Unit – Accessibility for Citizens with Special Needs to the Information Society, which was set up in 1999 under the Ministry of Science & Technology and which was later incorporated in Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC). The Access Unit was set up after the Council of Ministers approved the National Initiative for Citizens with Special Needs in the Information Society in August 1999 and the stipulated that the websites of public bodies had to satisfy accessibility requirements for citizens with special needs. Portugal was the first European country and the fourth worldwide to adopt this type of accessibility rules.

The objectives of the Access Programme are:

  • To support the development of new products, content and services that may benefit the quality of life of citizens with special needs;
  • To encourage the use of ICT by citizens with special needs and by their organisations;
  • To minimise the digital barriers in content and software and hardware interfaces, particularly in content offered by the Central Government on the Internet, in the documentation and software used at work, in educational multimedia applications and in mobile communication and digital television interfaces;
  • To improve the information system and availability of technical help;
  • To encourage more human resources and support materials, namely in hospitals and schools;
  • To foster the exchange of specialised knowledge and experience by professionals and people with special needs;
  • To include accessibility and support technology knowledge in ICT professionals’ training, retraining and education.

One of the Access Programme’s components is its support for the Solidarity Network, comprising more than 200 non-governmental organisations for citizens with special needs and/or support groups for these citizens. The Solidarity Network was set up in April 2001 and can trace its roots back to the re-badging of the Science and Education Network managed by FCCN - Foundation for National Scientific Computation in 1997 with the creation of the RCTS - Technology and Society Network, which began providing these institutions Internet access and electronic connectivity. In late 2002 there were 127 organisations in the Solidarity Network and by the end of 2004 the networks included 240 organisations.

Through the Access Programme, Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC) is part of the EDeAN – European Design for All e-Accessibility Network, which was set up in 2002 in the scope of the European eEurope2002 initiative. This network involves roughly 160 European organisations. The National Contact Point for Portugal is the National Institute for Rehabilitation (site in Portuguese). The bodies that are part of the National Network of Design for all e-Accessibility Centres of Excellence are: National Institute for Rehabilitation (site in Portuguese), Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC), National Engineering, Technology and Innovation Institute, CCG Association – Guimarães Graphic Computation Centre, eInclusion Resource Centre (text in Portuguese), Engineering Faculty – Universidade do Porto (site in Portuguese), Human Motricity Faculty – Universidade Técnica de Lisboa (site in Portuguese), Foundation for the Dissemination of Information Technologies, Instituto Superior Técnico - Universidade Técnica de Lisboa (site in Portuguese), Portuguese League for People with Motor Disabilities - Social Resource Centre, Universidade de Aveiro (site in Portuguese).

An initiative was launched in 2004 in the scope of the Access Programme supporting e-Inclusion projects that contribute towards the aforementioned objectives. It led to 48 projects being approved, with funding from the Knowledge Society Operational Programme of 3.6 million Euros, involving more than 250 professionals belonging to dozens of institutions: universities, research and development centres, state bodies working on behalf of the disabled, companies, municipal councils, institutions for and of the disabled. On 2nd April 2007, UMIC organised the "e-Inclusion: Project Outcomes Presentation" Conference at the Instituto Superior Politécnico de Leiria’s Escola Superior de Educação to unveil the results of these projects to the public. During the event, an exhibition of several projects was staged.

The Paediatrics ICT (site in Portuguese) project was launched in late 2005. It was promoted and managed by the Foundation for Disseminating Information Technologies (FDTI). Other institutional promoters were the Secretary of State for Young People and Sport and the Ministry of Health and it was sponsored by several companies. The projects makes technological resources available to children hospitalised in paediatric wards, enabling them to relax and be in contact with their families, school and friends via web-cams, personal computers and small family blogs. The project has been in various stages of implementation since 2005 and by the end of 2007 had been instituted in 10 hospital units: Instituto Português de Oncologia do Porto, Hospital Pediátrico de Coimbra, Hospital Dona Estefânia in Lisbon, Hospital Reynaldo dos Santos in Vila Franca de Xira, Hospital Infante D. Pedro in Aveiro, Hospital São Marcos in Braga, Hospital Divino Espírito Santo in Ponta Delgada, Centro Hospitalar do Baixo Alentejo in Beja, Hospital Distrital de Faro, Centro Hospitalar do Funchal.

Portugal is represented by Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC) in the Ambient Assisted Living Association, which was set up in Brussels on 19th September 2007 to manage European R&D projects in the area of intelligent ambient assisted living based on Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), which shall be co-funded under the European Union’s Research Framework Programme. At the EU Council of Science Ministers Meeting on 23rd November 2007 (text in Portuguese), chaired by the Portuguese Minister for Science, Technology and Higher Education, several important strategic initiatives were approved, including the European initiative to develop new applications for information technologies to improve the quality of life of the elderly (AAL – Ambient Assisted Living), with 150 million Euros in funding.

Of further note, as part of the preparations for the Fraunhofer-Portugal Programme, and as part of the Partnerships for the Future initiative, the first Fraunhofer Institute outside Germany will be set up in Porto, specialising precisely in the Technologies Applications, Content and Services for Ambient Assisted Living field. This Fraunhofer Company Centre/Institute in Portugal will pay special attention to developing technology, content and services for less qualified citizens, the elderly and citizens with special needs who normally do not keep up with the development of new technologies and the demands of the emerging Information and Knowledge Society, as well as developing intelligent environments in large public spaces.

A Council of Ministers’ Resolution was approved on 27th September 2007 setting out guidelines for the Accessibility of Government and Central Administration Websites, setting targets for achieving “A” level conformity pursuant to the guidelines on accessibility of content on the Internet developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) within 3 months, and “AA” level for sites with transactional services within six months.

The UMIC website for the Access Programme provides information and tools on ICT accessibility for citizens with special needs and ICT-based help for these citizens, including the Technical Help Catalogue provided in cooperation with INR – National Institute for Rehabilitation.

e-Inclusion Accessibility Projects (text in Portuguese) >>

Last updated ( 24/10/2011 )