Convegno Europeo
L'EDCL in Europa e in Italia


Giulio Occhini: Coordinatore

La introduco Io.

Ho accennato all’inizio che Lena Gudèhn è socia dell’associazione svedese di informatica, la Seedish Data Procesing Socity che, incidentalmente è l’associazione che ha introdotto per prima, dopo la Finlandia l’ECDL in Svezia, in Europa e che, fino ad adesso ha riscosso i maggiori successi nella sua diffusione. Di quel milione di cittadini coinvolti nel programma che citavo a livello europeo, la Svezia ne ha una quota significativa qualche centinaio di migliaia.

Attualmente, Lena Gudèh si occupa di un progetto internazionale intitolato, International Working gGoup su l’ECDL for Special Needs e quindi, mi pare il completamento, la conclusione di questo discorso che stiamo facendo sull’ECDL rivolta a persone con disabilità.

Lena a te, grazie.

Lena Gudéhn - ECDL Special Needs Working Group Manager


ECDL Available for all?
Is the ECDL (European Computer Driving License) available for all?

I would like to answer YES to that question, but I am afraid I can not do that.

ECDL has not been available for all.

Blind and visually impaired people, people with reading and writing difficulties (dyslexia), people with impaired hearing and deaf people, people with impaired mobility have in many cases not been able to complete the ECDL.This is not fair. The original intention of ECDL was that it should be available for all. What can be done to make ECDL available for all?



The need of ECDL for people with disabilities
The Information Society has to be for everyone! To have a disability should be regarded as a natural element of the life cycle. Everyone must expect, during some period in life, to be affected by circumstances that makes the access to and use of ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) products, services or systems difficult.

The ECDL has evolved into a generally and widely accepted certificate. Lots of people with disabilities have achieved a substantial knowledge in IT through courses, training or on their own. In spite of that they can in many cases not gain access to the test that would give them a certificate to prove their skills.

Even if the ECDL is not always mandatory when applying for a job – or even a means to get a job or gain access to schools and educational programmes - it has a great symbolic value as a proof of achieved skills. For people with disabilities to achieve their full productive potential, they require access to all the information and communication systems and services on which the business infrastructure of modern economy is based. The ability to use these systems and services effectively is a key factor in employment in an increasing number of economic and industrial sectors.

ECDL in Sweden
In Sweden all tests for ECDL are performed automatically. The test is presented and assessed on a computer. The problems we have to deal with could therefore be a bit different from the one’s encountered in countries where tests are performed manually.

In Sweden there are approximately 1000 test centres, of which 350 are schools. Approximately 200 000 people have taken one or more steps on the road leading to the ECDL (92 000 has achieved the complete ECDL). In other words: a big success. One of the reasons for this success is definitely the automated test process – which means faster assessment and less staff needed in the test centres. A key factor is also that the Swedish people in general are very IT and technology- friendly - over 70 % of the population have access to a computer, 80% have mobile phones.

More and more countries are starting to perform automated test for ECDL.

ECDL Foundation
ECDL Foundation decided to set up an international Special Needs Working Group with the objective of planning ECDL development as an evolving standard certificate. The reason for this being that approximately 10% of total population of 500 million people in Europe has disabilities. A large number of those people would benefit from ECDL. People that, from the Society point of view, are cost consuming, could with proper training start to produce profit. ECDL could become a part in the integration of people with disabilities into the working world. With the new possibilities of teleworking disabled could find a way to work from home.

Working Group ECDL for Special Needs
1)The Working Group for Special Needs will work on a proposal for a new ECDL Standard and Guideline for people with Special Needs undertaking the ECDL. This will be a guideline for testing in general, in terms of suggestions for accessibility, exam conditions, duration etc.
Problems in automated testing relates mostly to the test systems and how they could be adapted and adjusted to better suit the needs of people with disabilities.
Problems in manual testing could be access to assistants, assistive technology, assessment of tests etc.

2) The Working Group will also put together requirements of automated test systems to make the ECDL accessible for all

3) The final task of this Working Group will be to bring forward an alternate test to the ECDL module 6 – Presentation, which is a problem for blind people. The Royal London School for the Blind is involved in this work.


Automated Testing

How could people with Special Needs get access to the ECDL tests?
By making test systems accessible and enable use of assistive technology.

Adaptive technology by its very nature is always in a "cath-up" situation and glitches will occur as mainstream technology advances.

Providing access for people with disabilities is a challenging and complex task. Assistive technology is needed, training can be time consuming and the economic situation of people with disabilities may not always allow them the opportunity to purchase equipment.

A blind person could be helped by a Screen reading program connected to a Braille display and Speech Synthesis.

Braille display – through a screen reading program the text is converted to Braille and presented on a display

Screen readers are software packages that work with speech synthesisers to give the computer speech output. The material on the screen is read aloud by a synthesised voice.

Text scanners scan written text from a page and read it aloud.

Visual impairment
People who have visual impairment sometimes have difficulty seeing text or images on a computer screen or performing tasks that require eye-hand coordination, such as moving a computer mouse. Increased text size, screen contrast, and customisable colour combinations can help people with low vision.

Screen enlargers increase the size of the material on the screen for easy reading.

Deaf people have sign language (Body Sign Language) as their first language and the national language as second. An interpreter is necessary when teaching deaf people, if the teacher cannot sign. Written documentation could be useful.

Hard of hearing
People with impaired hearing have different needs depending on the degree of disability and at what age the disability occured. A hearing aid and written documentation could be useful.

Dyslexia (reading and writing difficulties)
Dyslectic people may suffer from difficulties in reading certain words and long or complicated sentences. They may have difficulty with reading, spelling, understanding language they hear, or expressing themselves clearly in speaking or in writing.

They may also be sensitive to the amount of information presented on a screen, and to the training environment. They would benefit from adapted tests, short sentences, speech synthesis, screen enlargers.

Mobility impairment.
Persons with impaired mobility may have problems with their motor activity and ability to move. Interacting with computers through the conventional mouse/keyboard set-up can be a significant challenge to individuals who have limited use of their hands. The appropriate aids could be Alternative keyboards – operated by one hand or by a few fingers, Alternative input devices for example track balls, mouse controlled by mouth or by eye-movement.

Voice recognition systems allow the user to operate the computer and input data with their voice.

All users would benefit from a linguistic review of test questions

Obstacles in automated testing
If a problem can be defined it is the beginning of a change for the better!


Automated Test Systems

Cannot use assistive technology
Today, disabled people dependent on assistive technology are unable to take the ECDL mainly due to shortcomings in the test system interface. The technology used in the existing test system does not allow, for instance, a screen reading program to "take control". This means that a blind person would need a trainer or assistant to read the questions to him or her.

The test system must be adapted to assistive technology so that screen-reading systems could read descriptions of icons, menus and dialogue boxes.

Time limit
Another major problem has been the time limit of 30 minutes. Could be very stressful, especially to a person with a disability. To use, for instance, a screen enlargement program is time consuming.

In Sweden we have , as a test, removed the time limit for people with special needs. The response has been overwhelming. We will evaluate this change and the effect it have had on number of tests performed at the end of the year. We will then also make a decision as to whether it should be a permanent solution for automated testing.

Difficult language
The language used in test questions has posed a difficulty for certain groups – dyslectics, people not having Swedish as their first language - which could be people from other countries living in Sweden or deaf people having BSL (Body Sign Language) as their first language. To solve this we have performed a linguistic review of all test questions where we actually managed to remove hundreds of words and thus making the questions clearer, shorter and easier to understand.

We are also in the middle of testing out a way to have questions and answering alternatives interpreted to BSL (Body Sign Language) in a small separate window on the screen. We will see the result of this in a few weeks time, which will be very interesting indeed.

Cannot change font size, colour
People who have visual impairments sometimes have difficulty seeing text or images on a computer screen, or performing tasks that require eye-hand coordination, such as moving a computer mouse. Increased text size, screen contrast and customisable colour combinations can help people with low vision. This is not a feature in our existing test system.

ECDL Module 6 - Presentation
This module is a major headache for blind people. In UK at The Royal London School for the Blind there is work going on to produce an alternative to this module. I hope they will have something to present in this matter in the beginning of next year.

Use de facto standard for Windows programming.

The screens used in tests should be as simple and "clean" as possible. Unnecessary information and pictures should be removed.

Flexible adaptable interfaces that the user could change them selves – font, size, colour, contrast. All functions and objects should be reachable through keyboard commands

For assistive technology to work optimally it will need information on the position of the cursor – active cursor, it needs to monitor the objects/windows appearing on the screen and it needs descriptive window identification. This is very important for a blind person using a screen reading program.

Performance testing – meaning that answers to questions are carried out through performing a certain result e g. "Change the font of the high lighted text to Arial" instead of "Wich button would give you the possibility to change the font of the highlighted text?".


Training providers

In the world of ECDL today, no specific requirements apply to training providers.
The provider’s knowledge and teaching method are of great importance to disabled students. If the provider does not adapt the course appropriately, there is a great risk that the disabled person will have difficulties throughout the training. There is also a risk that the focus is on the disabled person’s inability to do certain tasks rather than generating knowledge in the subject. Most disabled persons seem to have had a negative experience of this, leading to reduced confidence and interest as a result. It would be justified to require that the provider have knowledge of the student’s potential to get through the course successfully.

For those paying for the training, good quality may mean getting the training cheaply, but far too often this means poor quality for the student. Those in charge of purchasing training have a great responsibility to ensure that the student’s needs are satisfied and adequate training is purchased.


Knowledge of disability
The training provider should have knowledge of the specific disability in order to adapt the teaching method to the student needs. He/she needs knowledge of alternative skills for instance keyboard commands instead of using the mouse.

Adapted Training Environment
The Training provider must be able to offer an appropriate training environment with technical aids such as plugs for hearing aids

Knowledge of Assistive Technology
The training provider should be able to offer the required technical aids and skills in for example Speech synthesis.

Exclusive groups
Training courses with groups consisting exclusively of people with impaired hearing, visually handicapped etc. is preferable to training courses with mixed groups, where adaptations to special needs may only be made at the expense of other participants.

Teaching method
The training provider must be aware of the need for more teachers per student, i e smaller groups. There should be focus on the disabled person’s possibilities and special needs.

One of the main difficulties in getting the training providers to accept this is that it is hard t to quantify the financial benefits.

It will create a substantial goodwill for the training providers conforming to these requirements.


Training Material

Content adapted to ECDL syllabus
If the content of the Training material is adapted to the ECDL syllabus, it could be certified by the national ECDL operator. The ECDL tests are based on the ECDL syllabus. If the material is found to satisfy the basic requirements it is approved and thereby permitted to carry the ECDL logotype.

Language easy to understand
The language must be easily understandable. The training material must be adapted to the tests regarding the vocabulary and technical terms.

Possible to use as reference material
When the training is over, the student should be able to use the material as reference material. The students must be able to use the training material on their own.

Available in digital form
The training material must be available in digital form, preferably indexed. It should be possible to search texts and read with a speech synthesis.

Relevant pictures
Pictures must be adapted so that all non-relevant information is deleted.

Teaching methods developed mainly towards training materials for self-study. Video illustrations could demonstrate how to do a task together with sign interpretation, sound files could give an additional dimension to the text. The person using the material could choose a way of presenting the information, or various presentation techniques may be combined to achieve better illustrations.

ECDL and the EU
There will be a proposal submitted in January next year – "ECDL for people with disabilities".

Idea: To set up the framework to use ECDL for promotion of the enhancement of basic IT knowledge for people with disabilities.

Focus will be on on training materials, labour markets support and dissemination.

The Information Society is for everyone
The Information Society has to be for everyone! Keep making yourselves heard!

Giulio Occhini: Coordinatore

Grazie Lena!

Allora penso di ringraziare tutti i presenti, vi ringrazio veramente, siete stati attenti alla presentazione ed io ero veramente curioso di vedere come viene traslato dall’Inglese all’Italiano allo scritto, mi pare che abbia funzionato in modo ottimale direi.

Quindi dobbiamo anche ringraziare i nostri traduttori simultanei e scrittori simultanei, grazie.


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