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Online Communities for All: The Role of Design for All in the Formation and Support of Inclusive Online Communities

Basdekis, I., Klironomos, I., Antona, M. & Stephanidis, C. (2006). Online Communities for All: The Role of Design for All in the Formation and Support of Inclusive Online Communities. Paper presented at the International Design for All Conference, 13-15 Sep 2006, Rovaniemi, Finland.


An online community is a virtual community composed of individuals who form and maintain online communication, share common goals, interests and needs that provide the reason of community existence, and use common interactive tools that support their networking and communication activities. The term “networking” is traditionally used to describe the formation and maintenance of connections and relationships between individuals, organizations or other interested parties. Virtual or online networking is a form of interpersonal communication that is characterized by the use of electronic means of communication between the different parties and the exchange of messages and information in electronic forms [11]. Hence, virtual or online communities perform virtual networking. This paper aims to examine how the principles of Design for All can support the formation and operation of online communities that are fully inclusive, multi-cultural and multiplatform, thus providing an infrastructure essentially accessible to all their members to carry out virtual networking activities. Following an introduction to online communities and community formation, the paper briefly builds the case for Design for All and the challenges for new information and communication technologies towards a fully inclusive Information Society. Then, based on practical experience and case studies, the paper examines the benefits and challenges of applying the principles of Design for All in the design, development and support of virtual interaction spaces, in order to cater for the diversity of users-community members, as well as of their environments of use. The paper concludes by proposing a set of design issues to be taken into account in the development of online communities for all.

Publication Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Publisher Keywords: online community; inclusion; Design for All
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Departments: School of Science & Technology > Computer Science
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