Digital Technologies for Supporting Inclusion

Guest Editors

• Hasan Shahid Ferdous, The University of Melbourne, Australia
• Carsten Röcker, TH OWL University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Germany
• Syed Isthiaque Ahmed, University of Toronto, Canada
• Nusrat Jahan Mim, Harvard University, USA

Important dates

• Deadline: October 15th, 2024
• Notification to the authors: January 15th, 2025
• Camera ready paper: February 15th, 2025
• Publication of the special issue: March 2025 (tentatively)


Digital technologies provide access to information, education, mobility and health services in a way that facilitates entirely new forms of independent social inclusion and participation. This potential to bridge divides makes it almost morally imperative to advance the development of usable digital assistive technology. Particularly in light of the United Nations Convention on Rights for Persons with Disabilities (UN-CRPD) [1]. And while persons with disabilities are most at risk of being excluded (disability divide) [2], the UN-CRPD promulgates fundamentally applicable principles for all (societally) disadvantaged groups, regardless of age, gender, race or status. Currently, however, persons with disabilities and other disadvantaged groups are once more threatened to be excluded in the current developments (digital divide). This is certainly not caused by a lack of available assistive technologies. In fact, emerging technologies, devices and apps, often incorporating AI principles, exist that might play themselves out to support inclusion substantially – depending on how they are governed and used. Examples [2] of these are eye-tracking, sign language to speech systems, brain-computer interfaces, social (collaborative) robots or even self-driving vehicles that all potentially enable inclusion and participation in labour market and social life.
However, the greatest impediment to leveraging the dissemination of available digital devices for persons with impairments, disabilities, or social marginalization is the knowledge gap around specific inclusive user needs, inclusive usability issues and inclusive human-computer interaction design [3]. For persons with disabilities and other disadvantaged groups to fully harvest the potential of digital technologies for equal participation and independent social engagement, the specific needs that the diversity and complexity of disability and impairment brings need to be considered in design and developments processes of new products. However, there is a lack of nuanced awareness [4] for the multiple aspects involved in developing truly inclusive technologies. Little is known about the usability demands of users with comorbidities or multiple disabilities, for example. Even less is known about the intersectional issues around cultural aspects or infrastructure availability and service requirements of those who accompany the person who employs digital technologies (both actively and passively). Current research predominantly focuses on researching assistive technologies in those with cognitive impairment and test it on disabled people who are able to participate actively in the developmental process [3], leaving a gap for other groups with special needs. This scarcity of research on inclusive context-appropriate product design and unclarified (and therefore unmet) needs of persons with complex and intersectional disability and marginalization needs to be overcome, if we wish to avoid a double discrimination: that of the disability divide and that of the digital divide. We need to bridge the overall knowledge gap around inclusive digital technologies by uniting existing practical expertise and scientific knowledge and go into dialogue about how digital assistive solutions tailored to individuals can really advance enable inclusion and participation.
Today, only few disciplines work conjointly on researching the inclusive user needs yet. As a result, those that would gain most from improved accessibility and inclusion through the use of digital technologies are still ‘excluded’ rather than ‘included’ into the current digital transformation processes of society. In order to bridge the digital divide and fully utilize the potential of digital technologies, scientists from different disciplines and practitioners need to work hand in hand. A collaborative multidisciplinary approach that researches inclusive user needs and inclusive usability questions warrants that the multifaceted issues and complexities of implementing digital technologies for persons with disability and/or marginalization are addressed [5]. Consequently, the existing expertise and research findings must be aggregated. This special issue aims at providing the groundwork upon which the currently available digital technologies can be employed to assist persons with disability or otherwise disadvantaged and foster their equal participation in civic and social life.


[1] United Nations (2006). Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Division for Inclusive Social Development, New York, USA. [2] GSM Association (2020). Principles for Driving the Digital Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities. GSM Association, London, UK.
[3] Manzoor, M., Vimarlund, V. (2018). Digital Technologies for Social Inclusion of Individuals with Disabilities. Health and Technology, Vol. 8, pp. 377-390.
[4] Vassilakopoulou P, Hustad E. (2023). Bridging Digital Divides: A Literature Review and Research Agenda for Information Systems Research. Information System Frontiers, Vol. 25, No. 3, pp. 955-969.
[5] Boger, J., Jackson, P., Mulvenna, M., Sixsmith, J., Sixsmith, A., Mihalidis, A, Kontos, P., Polgar, J.M., Grigorovich, A.& Martin, S. (2017). Principles for Fostering the Transdisciplinary Development of Assistive Technologies. Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology, Vol. 12, No. 5, pp. 480-490.

Topics of Interest

IxD&A invites researchers and practitioners to submit original research papers, case studies, and reviews that contribute to the advancement of digital technologies for supporting inclusion. This special issue aims to bring together authors from different disciplines and professional backgrounds including academics, industry practitioners, designers, government authorities and representatives from social welfare organizations. We welcome a broad range of submissions that focus on empowering people with new forms of human-computer interaction for shaping the next-generation of inclusive environments. This includes conceptual and technical papers, literature reviews as well as qualitative and quantitative studies that address, but are not limited to the following topics:

Methodology And Concepts

– Usability of inclusive information systems
– Ethical approaches to inclusive design
– Co-production approaches/participative development methods
– User experience and participatory design
– Model-based design of inclusive systems
– Evaluations of accessibility, usability, and user experience
– Accessibility of intelligent environments
– Human aspects of future and emerging technologies for inclusion – Design for people with special needs and disabilities

Applications And Technologies

– Technologies and devices for inclusive systems
– Software infrastructures and architectures for implementing inclusive applications – Inclusive interaction devices and (adaptive) interface concepts
– Tools and design techniques for inclusive systems
– Multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary design
– Emotion and affective user interface
– Adaptive and tangible user interfaces for inclusion
– Special-needs based interaction and alternative interaction techniques
– Personalized interaction
– Augmented interaction
– Assistive environments and robots
– Inclusive human-robot interaction

Social And Ethical Aspects

– Accessibility and Usability
– User Diversity and Gender-specific Design
– Ethical and Normative Requirements, Privacy, Security, and Trust
– Economical, Legal, and Environmental Constraints
– Technology Acceptance and Performance, as well as Cultural Aspects of Inclusive Systems – Social and Political Implications
– Legal Issues in Inclusive Applications

Submission procedure 

All submissions must be original and may not be under review by another publication.
The manuscripts should be submitted anonymized either in .doc or in .pdf format.
All papers will be blindly peer-reviewed by at least two reviewers. Prospective participants are invited to submit an 8-30-page paper (including authors’ information, abstract, all tables, figures, references, etc.).
The paper should be written according to the IxD&A authors’ guidelines.
Submission page -> link
(when submitting the paper please choose the section: ‘SI: Digital Technologies for Supporting Inclusion’)

For scientific advice and for any query please contact the guest editors:

• carsten [dot] roecker [at] th-owl [dot] de
• ferdoush [at] unimelb [dot] edu [dot] au
• nusrat_mim [at] gsd [dot] harvard [dot] edu
• ishtiaque [at] cs [dot] toronto [dot] edu

marking the subject as: IxD&A special issue on ‘Digital Technologies for Supporting Inclusion’.