available through the NII. ECIs are defined broadly as including input and output hardware and software as well as design and performance characteristics of applications-such as ease and speed of communication-that influence the overall experience of a person or group of people working in a system. The concern of the study is that, even though the usability of systems has improved substantially over many years, current interfaces still exclude many people from effective NII access. Most obvious are individuals with physical and other disabilities, but as articles in even the national and business press attest, people without such distinguishing characteristics, even expert users of NII systems, experience difficulties that constrain or even preclude their full use of NII resources.
The steering committee emphasizes that effective technological research on and development of ECIs must be grounded in a well-considered understanding of the needs and behavior of people. Achieving ECIs is thus an interdisciplinary endeavor involving computing-related science and engineering disciplines as well as social science disciplines. Progress toward developing improved ECIs will require basic research in theory, modeling, and conceptualization; experimental research involving building, evaluating, and testing of artifacts; and empirical social science research assessing segments of the population and how people actually work with different systems. In all cases, data, methodology, and tools are themselves targets for research or research support.
Certainly, however, the needed ECI-related research discussed in this report accounts for only part of the challenge of making NII resources broadly accessible. Policies aimed at promoting universal access to the NII must be developed that address economic factors, such as a person's ability to pay for communication and information services and access devices, as well as social and psychological factors, such as organizational, family, and peer group support, and personal preferences. Although the importance of such factors is clear, examination of them is beyond the scope of this report, which focuses primarily on issues related to computing, information, and communications technologies.
At this time and for the foreseeable future, enlarging the set of options for human-machine communication, not replacing older technologies with new per se, is a broad goal for ECI research. Making a full range of options available involves continued improvements in mainstream interface technologies, such as graphical direct manipulation interfaces and typed and menu-selected command line interfaces, as well as research on modes that are currently not widely available. Recent advances in the