Project name: Advancing Social Inclusion through Technology and Empowerment
Project acronym: a-STEP
Dates: October 2020 - October 2024
Parties: Croatia, Austria, Estonia, Israel, Norway, UK, Bulgaria, France, Latvia, Poland, Hungary, Moldova, Slovenia, Cyprus, Ireland, North Macedonia, Switzerland
Funding: European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST Action)
Grant Agreement Number: CA19104
Website: https://www.cost.eu/



Social inclusion is an important element of well-being for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and/or Intellectual Disability (ID). Research has highlighted that social inclusion is facilitated through accessto education and employment. Despite this, people with ASD and/or ID have low rates of participation inthese domains. Research has demonstrated that Assistive Technology (AT) shows great promise in increasing participation in education and employment. Notwithstanding recent technological advances, there are low rates of adoption of AT throughout Europe by service providers, educators, employers and policy makers. 

The aim of the COST action is to build an interdisciplinary, intersectoral pan EU and beyond, network which will enhance social inclusion and empowerment of individuals with ASD and/or ID.

This will be achieved by:

Evaluating the development of novel AT by providing an interdisciplinary and intersectoral collaboration between all stakeholders using a translational approach to establish standardised practice guidelines fordesign, development and deployment of AT.

Creating knowledge, by providing a database of current AT technologies and their match to employment and educational contexts for users with ASD and/or ID.

Promoting the adoption of evidence-based guidelines in relation to use of AT across settings and populations and propagating the use of inclusive design and rigorous research approaches.




To achieve the main objective, the following specific objectives shall be accomplished:

Research Coordination

  • Identify and evaluate existing Assistive Technology (AT) for enhancing social inclusion of individuals withASD and/or ID. Gain a better understanding of the factors impacting the use of AT within the ASD and/or ID community across cultures, populations, and contexts.
  • Achieve better understanding of AT abandonment issues to inform development of practice guidelines.
  • Evaluate a new framework of guidelines to promote best practices of AT applications within the education and employment contexts.
  • Create a joint roadmap for the inclusion of users, research, industry and policymakers in the design, development and deployment of AT.
  • Develop practice guidelines of AT with considerations of ethical, regulatory and policy issues. Develop 3 new assessment methods of matching between person and AT.
  • Build a web-based resource platform of existing AT applications to support users and providers in making informed choices leading to high uptake of AT.
  • Establish priorities for future translational research via the identification and promotion of best practices inthe use of AT
  • Promote a range of AT applications with a particular focus on users and those who interact with them (e.g., caregivers, service providers).
  • Explore the opportunities for coordinated AT research that corresponds to the Horizon Europe agenda and other under-explored funding schemes.
  • Encourage exchanges between stakeholders and industry partners regarding current issues and needs to accelerate future development of new AT tools, including the use of artificial intelligence.

Capacity Building

  • Identify an interdisciplinary, multi-sectoral pan-European network with inclusive multi- stakeholderrepresentation to enable learning from wide ranging relevant experiences in research and practice to fosterthe AT applications to enhance social inclusion.
  • Foster collaboration between research and industry to create an interdisciplinary and translationalapproach for the achievement of improved outcomes in education and employment.
  • Provide interdisciplinary opportunities for cooperation between users, researchers, practitioners,industries and policymakers.
  • Create a virtual collaboration-open space to foster teamwork and support rapid communications ofknowledge among the proposers/partners to encourage transfer and exploitation of new insights arisingfrom the Action network into the scientific, AT and disability services arena.
  • Attract and support the next generation of Early Career Investigators (ECIs) to research in AT and socialinclusion and support their interdisciplinary education and training through Short Term Scientific Missions(STSMs). Including priority and active promotion to ECIs with ASD and/or ID.
  • Disseminate knowledge and experience resulting from this network by publications, workshops, seminars,a final conference, public awareness days, an easily accessible user-friendly website and social media.
  • Proactively involve specific target groups (e.g., ECIs, students from Inclusiveness Target Countries(ITCs)), women, and teams from countries/regions with less capacity in the field of this Action.
  • Enlarge the network by involving external experts (outside the network) in network activities, i.e.,invitation to present talks, lectures and webinars.