The countries of the European Union generally want to enhance self-support for the elderly and disabled and consequently strive for accessibility of 'mainstream' Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for these inhabitants. The 'universal accessibility' approach is advocated as a possibility to include all user groups in the software development process.The European Union supports research in this area, for example by funding the project Assessing the Awareness of the Design for All Approach (AADAA consortium, 1998).However, the 'universal accessibility' approach is not as widely spread in the design community, as it should be. Several reasons have been identified. First, the phenomenon that 'universal accessibility' products are perceived as dull by the designers creates serious problems for the acceptance of the 'universal accessibility' paradigm. This might, however, be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Second, the cost of involving elderly and disabled users in software development can be higher than for involving the rest of the population. On the other hand, a broader perspective comprises also the advantages of the 'universal accessibility' approach: The involvement of elderly in the design process often results in better products for all kind of users so that the overall utility of this approach is high (Gleiss et al., 1995). Furthermore, the number of potential users of the 'universal accessible' product also increases so it might very well be a good investment. Third, the extra constraints on design possibilities are another objection. However, it could be that the constraints force the designers to be creative, bringing about new ideas that enrich the total design space (Newell & Gregor, 1997). In sum, the three problems of dullness, design costs and design constraints can be solved by evoking positive attitudes, widened cost-benefit analyses and creative design solutions. However, to realise 'universal accessibility', the corresponding human factors knowledge should be incorporated into the design practice. Currently, designers take insufficiently account of human-factors knowledge on elderly and disabled (Neerincx, 1998). This paper provides a cognitive engineering approach to solve this problem.
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