In the field of telecommunications and informatics, new services and facilities are being established at a rapid rate. This rapid development has often taken place with little or no awareness of the needs of a significant group of consumers; those people who have disabilities that prevent or make difficult the use of the telephone.

In order to ensure that the needs of disabled people were properly formulated and made aware to the European telecommunications industry, regulatory authorities and others, the COST 219 project was set up.

COST is the European organisation for Co-operation in the field of Scientific and Technical Research and has a significant interest in telecommunications as well as other areas, such as transport, new materials, forestry and social technology.

The COST 219 project is entitled: "Future telecommunication and teleinformatics facilities for disabled people". The signatories to this project agreed to co-operate in order to promote research into the field of telecommunications and teleinformatics with the aim of proposing solutions to problems related to the needs of disabled people in gaining access to telecommunication and teleinformatics services.

The project started in September 1986 and was terminated in September 1991. By March 1991, the signatories of Cost 219 were: Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Finland, France, (the Federal republic of) Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. In addition, there has been active participation from Belgium, Greece and Yugoslavia.

A request for a five year continuation of the activity after this date has already been granted by the COST Senior Officials Committee.

COST 219 has exchanged information and influenced different research bodies, such as the European Community projects "Research into Advanced Communication Equipment in Europe" (RACE) and "Technology for the Socio-Economic Integration of Disabled and Elderly People" (TIDE), and the standardisation body, European Telecommunication Standards Institute (ETSI). Close relations and involvement with user organisations have been central to the work, both on the international and national level, often through national COST 219 reference committees.

Results of the project's five years of work have been presented at various conferences and publications. This book, however, gives a coherent presentation of the most relevant issues that have been discussed during the project period.

It is the hope of the Management Committee of COST 219 that this book will stimulate further developments and improvements in telecommunications and teleinformatics for people with disabilities, as well as being to practical realisation of the work in this field over the last five years.

I would like to add to that my personal thanks to our editor, Stephen von Tetzchner, as well as to all authors who have made it possible to produce this book in a very short period of time.

Jan Ekberg
Chairman of COST 219 Management Committee

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