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Keynote Speech III

Terje Gjøsæter.jpg

・Title: Universal Design of ICT for Emergency Management

             - Necessary for Some and Good for All!

Speaker:  Terje Gjøsæter 

             Associate Professor, University of Agder (Norway)


Universal Design of ICT is said to be necessary for some and good for all. In a disaster situation, a good communication flow is essential. It can be a matter of life and death that urgent information reaches everybody, regardless of disabilities, digital equipment, or situation.

 The diversity of the public need special attention in planning and handling disaster situations. The Sendai framework for Disaster risk reduction “requires empowerment and inclusive, accessible and non-discriminatory participation, paying special attention to people disproportionately affected by disasters, especially the poorest. A gender, age, disability and cultural perspective should be integrated in all policies and practices, and women and youth leadership should be promoted.”

 In this talk, we will highlight some of the issues regarding interaction with digital equipment that people may face in a disaster situation. We are not only talking about people with disabilities, but also the general public as well as first responders. Not only on the site of the disaster, but also in the control rooms.

We are talking about ICT in the field, for responders, for digital volunteers, but also apps that are used by the public, for finding the nearest evacuation shelter, for reporting about the local situation, for requesting help, or giving or receiving instructions. In a disaster situation, we may encounter what we call “situational disabilities”, aspects of the situation that for example makes us less able to interact with our smart phones. It can be smoke in the eyes that makes us less able to see small text, noise blocking out audio messages or alarms, stress and fear can reduce our cognitive abilities, cold wet fingers may be less able to interact well with a touch screen. We are also talking about ICT in the control room, where some of us are familiar with the concept of “Demons of Situation Awareness”, which we consider to be related to situational disabilities.

We will finally discuss how Universal Design – or “Design for All” as it is sometimes also known, can help mitigate these issues by taking into account the diversity of people’s abilities, their digital equipment, and the situations they face.


Dr. Terje Gjøsæter (M) is an Associate Professor at the Department of Information Systems (IS) at the University of Agder, and is an active member of their cross-disciplinary Centre for Integrated Emergency Management (CIEM). He also holds a 20% position as associate professor in Universal Design of ICT at the Department of Computer Science at Oslo Metropolitan University. His current research focus is divided between Cybersecurity in Critical Infrastructure and Universal Design of ICT for Emergency Management.

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