Systems and Complexity

Systems and Complexity

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6130-1.ch014

Abstract

Past efforts in e-Access, e-assistive, and e-inclusive technologies have largely focused on “parts of a problem.” That is to say, they have identified key tasks in day-to-day living and working or key elements in the experience of those with disability care and focused on the development of independent solutions for these specific tasks. Although this approach has yielded many successes, it may be time to stand back and take a look at the bigger picture. To the extent that systems have been discussed, the focus has been on technological systems. Typically, these systems are engineered systems that link otherwise weakly linked groups, such as doctors and carers with those cared for and their families or friends. In this chapter, the authors would like the reader to stand back and explore systems from a broader perspective, in particular from the human systems point of view.
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Complete Solutions For Human Systems And Redundancy

The concept of the complete solutions comes from modern theories of quality management that apply a systems approach. When the solution to a problem requires many steps or many processes or effective action on the part of many different people, and if only one of these is missing, then there is as yet no solution. It is only when all of the necessary events happen in the right way that things can move forward. Though seemingly obvious this idea assumes great significance when most or even all but one of the necessary parts of a system are in place, but everything stands still, and no-one is responsible. Almost everyone has done their job to contribute to the solution. For whatever reason all but one, absence, inattention, lack of training or proper resources, has not done what was required and the whole thing fails. Who is responsible to remedy the situation? All who know have done their job and the one who did not remains blissfully unaware. The problem is extremely common. It is only resolved when some dedicated soul, often standing over or outside the system takes responsibility for the final outcome. Typically this is a manager and in modern systems approaches to management, one of the key roles of the manager is to assume responsibility for the systemic dimension of the problem to ensure that a complete solution is present and so that things can move on as intended.

In previous and on-going programs to address e-Access challenges, a lot of attention has been paid to the issue of travel and mobility. In the Braillenet meeting held in Paris in early 2011, experts from companies such as the French SNCF spoke about the challenge of e-accessibility of web-sites. The discussion was rich and raised many issues related to the compliance of websites with appropriate e-Access legislation. There is a lot of work to be done and the challenge is being addressed with a good will, in a serious and systematic way. However there is a bigger issue. If someone who is blind has difficulty reading or as a foreign visitor has difficulty understanding the language, the availability of a well-designed highly accessible website will enable that person to find out routes and timetables and plan their travel, but many more obstacles remain to be overcome before they can complete a journey.

In particular they may have to find their way to the station or airport. Once there, they may have to find the right platform. How difficult it is even for non-disabled people to read the big screens at airports and major rain-stations. How much harder it must be when someone does not even know if and where they are. Once one has found the platform, there are further challenges. Knowing which of the two trains on the same platform is the correct one. Easy if you can read the sign on the side, or ask a conductor having a coffee over 50 meters away. Finding the right carriage and then the right seat also remain challenges. Of course other people are often willing to help, but less so during rush hour, or when a train changes track to arrive on a totally different platform. Much of the effort spent providing good e-access compliant websites will be for nothing if the rest of the system has not also been put in place.

Those responsible for fixing the website to ensure its compliance will not normally see the larger e-access picture. Even if they do, it will most likely lie beyond their ability to address it. This is a typical system level problem and though everyone may do what is required of them, it will never be enough and the original problem will remain.

In the case of mobility and transport, the issue is not just what happens at the train station. It starts at home. There is a mobility and transport challenge at home, in the building, in the neighbourhood as far as the metro, in the metro, on the side walk from the metro through car-parks and tunnels to the station itself, and more of the same on the other side. Until all of this is navigable by someone with a disability, society cannot consider that it enables all citizens to enjoy independent living. The example demonstrates that systems, solutions, applications and services should see the bigger picture when developed in order to allow integration, cooperation and interoperability. This way the road to a complete solution such as in the example described could be easier to achieve.

There is a need to address system level issues that start by supporting projects whose aim is to raise awareness of the importance of providing complete solutions, what they might look like and what kind of partnerships would be needed to provide them.

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