The EURECO 2021 conference in Siegen focuses on the potentials and challenges of digitalization for persons with disabilities, mental health problems and/or long-time care needs, their families, communities, and the social services they use. In mainstream society the use of digital technology in various forms has already become a familiar part of daily life. In many situations it helps with communication, information, and the solving of day-to-day problems. Digital transformation in societies has been accelerated in the COVID 19 pandemic period. However, across Europe people with disabilities and impairments often still have no or only limited access to digital applications, digital media or other forms of ICT-based technologies that have become mainstream routines in social life. It can be observed that European societies have become digitally divided.
The conference program focuses on digital issues related to persons with disabilities, mental health problems and/or long-time care needs who live under conditions of major social dependencies. Obviously, in such situations access to mainstream ICT-communication is even more crucial for being included in society than for able-bodied persons. Furthermore, progress in the development of assistive technologies is moving fast. The variety of existing computer-based systems and tools to help with activities of daily life and to support the development of individual competences and skills for independent living is impressive. Even though, technology is not able to answer all issues of disability, person-centered technology can make life easier. Therefore, it needs strong and creative efforts to tackle the ‘digital divide’ and strategies for full digital participation.
“Tackling the digital divide” is a complex challenge as it is caused by many reasons, takes many forms and also differs between urban and rural areas. Persons with disabilities, mental health problems and/or long-time care needs are often considered to be ‘distant from technology’. This has consequences for developing appropriate training concepts for digital newcomers but also calls for inclusive design of devices and software. It needs new knowledge, competences and intensive cooperation between social work and education on the one hand and the technology sector on the other hand. With such a interdisciplinary approach, the conference program offers presentations from different perspectives such as universities, service providers, self-help organizations and government representatives.
Full digital participation also has a territorial and political dimension. Therefore, the conference will also discuss how efforts for digital participation of vulnerable groups and inclusive digital infrastructure can be embedded politically in a regional development strategy. More specific, the conference will present and compare experiences with digital development and social service provision in other European regions ‘beyond metropoles’ like the German district of Siegen-Wittgenstein/South Westphalia and thus come to recommendations for mixed rural-industrialized regions.
In this sense, the conference will bring together outstanding scientific and practical expertise from social work, social services, and socio-informatics.
University of Siegen / EURECO. The conference is supported by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Social Affairs, Northrhine-Westfalia (MAGS NRW).
University of Siegen (Campus Unteres Schloß, Obergraben 25)
Hybrid format with core group in presence and online-connection for participants.
The conference addresses German, European and international researchers, and practitioners with interest in digital transformation processes in the disability, mental health, and long-term-care sector. Registration is necessary. There is no conference fee.
English / German