Ageing, Adaption and Accessibility: Time for the Inclusive Revolution!

Modern Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has, in the last few years, enriched the lives of many individuals and society as a whole. With all the benefits afforded by this new-found capability, however, come challenges for an ageing population. Why do we continue to digitally disfranchise older people in the modern era, especially given that the world’s population is ageing at an unprecedented rate and there is an increasing focus on the sustainability agenda?

The Engineering Design Centre (EDC) at the University of Cambridge, in partnership with BT, produced a book of thought pieces investigating these questions. Importantly, this work was aimed at stimulating a debate based on research and practice that has been taking place in many industrial studios, government chambers and academic centres.

The book was officially launched into the public domain on the 25th of January 2013, at BT Tower in London, in the presence of eminent representatives from government, industry and academia.

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Book Details

Much has been written about digital disenfranchisement of older people over the years, usually by academics from the area of inclusive product design. The issue is complex and it is fair to say that no one researcher has the whole picture. It is difficult to understand and adequately address the issue of digital exclusion among the older generation without looking across disciplines and at industry’s and government’s understanding, motivation and efforts toward resolving this important problem. To do otherwise is to risk misunderstanding the true impact that ICT has and could have on people’s lives across all generations.

In this European year of Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations and as the British government is moving forward with its Digital by Default initiative as part of a wider objective to make ICT accessible to as many people as possible by 2015, the Engineering Design Centre (EDC) at the University of Cambridge collaborated with BT to produce a book of thought pieces to address, and where appropriate redress, these important and long-standing issues.

“Ageing, Adaption and Accessibility: Time for the Inclusive Revolution!”, brings together opinions and insights from twenty one prominent thought leaders from government, industry and academia regarding the problems, opportunities and strategies for combating digital exclusion among senior citizens. The contributing experts were selected as individuals, rather than representatives of organisations, to provide the broadest possible range of perspectives. They are renowned in their respective fields and their opinions are formed not only from their own work, but also from the contributions of others in their area. Their views were elicited through conversations conducted by the editors of this book, who then drafted the thought pieces, to be edited and approved by the experts.

Book Chapters

  • Karin Bendixen, Design for, Denmark
    Including seniors in the overall business and political agenda
  • Matt Brittin, Google
    Making the web work for everyone
  • Roger Coleman, Royal College of Art, UK
    Making the neighbours jealous
  • Gerald Craddock, Centre for Excellence in Universal Design, Ireland
    Call to arms to fill the ‘know-do’ gap in ICT
  • Hua Dong, Brunel University, UK
    The power of design and designers
  • Onny Eikhaug, Norwegian Design Council, Norway
    The role of motivation, supported learning and self-efficacy
  • Valerie Fletcher, Institute for Human Centered Design, US
    ICT, older users and economic viability: Moving beyond ‘special’ to mass customisation
  • Sally Greengross,
    ICT for today’s population, not the population from the last century
  • Ian Hosking, University of Cambridge, UK
    The art of simplicity
  • Felicia Huppert, University of Cambridge, UK
    ICT, confidence and well-being
  • Nigel Lewis, AbilityNet, UK
    The importance of being earnest about user testing
  • Helen Milner, UK Online Centres, UK
    Taking ICT down a notch and delivering it into the hands of the excluded masses
  • Johan Molenbroek, Delft Technical University, The Netherlands
    Putting older people at the heart of every ICT development
  • Bonnie Kearney, Microsoft, US
    The power of connecting and staying active
  • Alan Newell, University of Dundee, UK
    Technology is older people phobic, not vice versa
  • Donald Norman, The Nielsen Norman Group, US
    If inclusive design is good for everyone, why don't we have it?
  • Graham Pullin, University of Dundee, UK
    Designing for digital grandparents: How inclusion can be implicit yet inspire innovation
  • Marjan Sedmak, AGE Platform Europe, Slovenia
    Time to end the ‘Stone Age’ of inaccessible ICT
  • Felicity Singleton, Government Digital Service, UK
    Lessons learnt from the government going digital
  • Heinz Wolff, Brunel University, UK
    Technological speed vs. accessible and responsible design
  • Tom Wright, Age UK, UK
    Focussing on what we could do, not what we are not doing


This work would never have come to life without the commitment, encouragement and tireless support of: Gavin Patterson, Chief Executive Officer BT Retail; John Petter, Managing Director of BT’s Consumer business; Liz Williams, General Manager for Sustainable Business; and Fiona Miller, BT Consumer Affairs.

We are grateful to Jeff Patmore from Pembroke College in Cambridge for his help with the initial stage of this work.

We would also like to thank the twenty one thought leaders from industry, government and academia who contributed their views to this book and who continue to work to include older people in mainstream Communication and Information Technology (ICT).