Sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Inclusive Development of Methods and Technologies for Supporting Everyday Activities of Young People with Special Needs

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Web: https://intia.de
Project duration: 01.05.2019 – 30.04.2022
Funding: Federal Ministry of Education and Research
Funding guideline: „Quality of life through social innovations (FH-Sozial)“
Project Management: Prof. Dr. Isabel Zorn, Faculty of Applied Social Sciences, Institute for Media Research and Media Education (IMM)
Other DITES-professorships involved: Prof. Birgit Mager, Köln International School of Design (KISD); Prof. Dr. Stefan Bente and Prof. Dr. Christian Kohls, Cologne Institute für Digital Ecosystems
Contact: INTIA@th-koeln.de

INTIA is a project coordinated by the TH Köln, in which the research center Digital Technologies and Social Services (DITES) with its areas Social Work Media + Education (Prof. Dr. Isabel Zorn), Computer Science and Socio-technology (Prof. Dr. Stefan Bente and Dr. Christian Kohls) and Service-Design & Co-Creation (Prof. Birgit Mager) cooperate with institutions of social work. Those partners work with disadvantaged youth (Diakonie Michaelshoven; Evangelische Jugendhilfe Bonn, intra Bonn) as well as with the Special Agency for Youth Media Culture (FJMK). The project began on 1 May 2019 and will last 36 months, plus a further 12 months for a doctorate.


Institutions and social work organisations are increasingly recognising how socially relevant the lack of digital participation of their clients is. However, they lack concrete individual solutions that are helpful for the participation and self-determined everyday coping of their clients, reduce risks, the implementation and operation of which do not require a great deal of effort, and which can be used without any problems with regard to liability or data protection issues. Innovative approaches are sought to introduce clients of social work to the use of digital tools.

Project approach

The relevant clients and professionals participate as experts in their own inclusive technology development processes, supported by researchers and students from computer science, design and social work. The different target groups are to be enabled to invent, design and adapt technological solutions themselves and thus experience self-efficacy in the context of the use of digital tools.

In the field of computing science, the ability of technology laypersons to develop inclusive solutions for their own needs requires a solutionapproach with which different software services and hardware components can be combined and used simply and according to a Design for All approach. In practice, even in highly participatory approaches such as digital maker spaces and fablabs, services and end devices are usually configured by IT experts. There are no methods by means of which stakeholders with low technical affinity can configure even digital life-supporting measures together with the clients (demand-oriented).

INTIA wants to fill this gap. The project takes advantage of the fact that solutions for the integration of hardware components and the combination of software services and apps are increasingly available as open source. Today, the market also offers a wide variety of inexpensive components for the intelligent networking of home technology, household appliances and consumer electronics. Within the framework of the INTIA project, a comprehensive, target-group-adapted operating layer will be created and participatively further developed, which will enable specialists in social work to set up and operate their own digital everyday laboratory with the help of a digital construction kit principle and inclusive design methods. Such everyday laboratories can either be established as permanent media centres in social work institutions, or in the form of a „mobile everyday laboratory“ for targeted, time-limited activities in youth and disability services.


The project starts with the recruitment and motivation of clients and pedagogical specialists in selected institutions of the participating youth and disability welfare organisations. Target groups are: residents of independent groups (prospective careleavers) in inpatient facilities; young people with intellectual disabilities and/or learning disabilities; young mothers with disabilities.

Using suitable methods, the next step is to identify the participatory and self-determination-oriented needs of the target groups. Possibilities for digital assistance will be jointly researched (Citizen Science approach). Based on the findings, applications for digital help and participation will be developed in everyday laboratory workshops using participative inclusive development processes. In concrete terms, this means that technologies will be visioned and participatively tested by the two target groups – oriented towards usefulness, simplicity of use, adaptation to needs according to known technology acceptance models – co-creatively designed and tested in everyday life. The parallel, careful accompanying research provides indications for necessary adaptations. The iterative further development takes place up to the point at which the applications fully meet the needs of use.

Finally, the activities lead to good practice technologies and usage contexts, which are provided together with design patterns in mobile laboratory cases. This makes the concept mobile and reaches various areas of social work. Cooperation partners from the youth and handicapped welfare sector will adopt the concept of mobile everyday laboratories for the regional and supra-regional further training of pedagogical specialists in concretely tested, helpful use of technology in social work. Mobile everyday labs are also offered in Hackathons and MakerSpaces to promote inclusion and participation issues.

Leading Research Questions

  • Which everyday needs do the adressed youth experience in their life practice and how can they be digitally supported?
  • How do young people and educational professionals make use of digital help and partial help solutions and how do interactions, roles and participation processes change?
  • What demands and conditions for success are to be placed on inclusive methods and forms of interaction for needs analyses and participatory design processes with vulnerable groups and social workers, face-to-face and in virtual space?
  • Which services, applications and components are necessary and how must they be designed so that they are self-explanatory and can be used as low-threshold building blocks for new ideas in co-creation processes?

Consortium of involved Institutions

  • Technische Hochschule Köln / DITES:
    • Faculty of Applied Social Sciences, Institute for Media Research and Media Education (Prof. Dr. Isabel Zorn)
    • Cologne Institute for Digital Ecosystems (Prof. Dr. Stefan Bente und Prof. Dr. Christian Kohls)
    • Köln International School of Design KISD (Prof. Birgit Mager)
  • Diakonie Michaelshoven, Kinder- und Familienhilfen Michaelshoven GmbH
  • Evangelische Jugendhilfe Godesheim GmbH
  • Fachstelle Jugendmedienkultur NRW (FJMK)
  • Other project partners: intra bonn gGmbH

DITES – Projects and Research INTIA and further Projects or the DITES research centre (German).

DITES – TeamMore  than 10 professors from six faculties are members of the DITES research centre (German).

Educational specialists in training counsel INTIA The Institute for Inclusive Education qualifies people with so-called
intellectual disabilities or learning disabilities for educational work
at universities. As education specialists, they communicate their life
worlds, views and needs to students and thus sensitise them to the topic
of inclusion. On 30 August 19, INTIA received advice on the first draft
concepts from the prospective specialists.