The objective of the Digital Agenda for Europe is to chart a course to maximise the social and economic potential of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for doing business, working, playing, communicating and expressing ourselves freely1.

Television in Europe will finally be digital in 2015 and the most widely used ICT among Europe’s 502 million citizens. The development of television accessibility to promote e-inclusiveness can be divided into several phases:

  • 1939-2000: Experimentation phase leading to the provision of basic access services on broadcast TV across Europe.
  • 2001-2014: Consolidation phase following important changes in telecommunications and broadcasting legislation leading to access services (subtitling, Audio Description, Audio subtitles and sign language interpreting) using Universal Design – “one size fits all” that meet many but not all of viewer requirements.
  • 2015–2020 Expansion phase to meet the new demographic challenges of an ageing Europe (subtitling, Audio Description, Audio subtitles and sign language interpreting) with both Universal Design on Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) and customisable access services on HbbTV that together meet nearly all viewer requirements.

The project HBB4ALL and its pilots’ results are thus central and important to the realisation of the societal and economic objectives of the Digital Agenda. The HBB4ALL will be of worldwide relevance and will, through standardisation bodies such as the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and International Organization for Standardization (ISO), also be publicised on a world-wide level.

Public service broadcasters and their partners traditionally demonstrate “proof-of-concept” for initiatives like e-inclusion. Working together or via the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) they can demonstrate mature solutions developed with and for persons with disabilities.

Given the impact in close fields such as eHealth and eEducation for example, the results from this project will have important results and direct impact. The services piloted can then be adopted and scaled up across Europe in tandem with the household penetration of ‘connected TVs’ using HbbTV forecasted to pass the 50% mark in Europe in 2016. Very few commercial broadcasters currently have the wherewithal to do this kind of work, hence the need for a pan European initiative.

1. Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme, ICT Policy Support Programme, Work Programme 2013, programme here.