Mediation is a legal form for resolving conflicts where the judge or referee is substituted by a mediator, in charge of helping both sides come to a consensual agreement. The SEMADISC (Electronic System for Mediation and Arbitration for Disabled Persons) project seeks to offer a software tool for intermediation and arbitration focused on individuals with limited mobility or with some sort of disability.
This project came about thanks to the synergies of the UC3M Colmenarejo Campus, in which professors and researchers from different areas of knowledge work together Specifically, this multi-disciplinary project, halfway between law and computing engineering, was created by researchers from the Artificial and Applied Intelligence Group (GIAA) and the UC3M 'Bartolomé de las Casas' Institute of Human Rights. The principal idea of the system is to offer the adequate means so that any person, especially individuals with a disability, can access a free and universal service with which they can resolve and discuss their problems in a comfortable and pacific way. "This is an accessible electronic tool that allows individuals with disabilities to enjoy the same autonomy and independence when exercising their rights as an individual without disabilities, so that the person with the disability does not have to depend on a third person”, commented one of the creators of this system, Miguel Ángel Patricio, from the GIAA.
The researchers have already achieved the first online platform prototype, accessible from any web navigator, and adapted to the special needs of the users, which allows the mediation process steps to be carried out, such as setting up a case, providing a report indicating the progress of the mediation process, or facilitating the communication between those involved through updates by different media.
At the moment, the running of this first prototype is being completed with the aim of going on to a second phase which will consist in testing the tool to see if it is valid for some of the associations and organizations which have been contacted. "For this first pilot plan we are selecting and training law students who will carry out the role of mediators", explained the UC3M professor, Mª del Carmen Barranco, who is a member of the 'Bartolomé de las Casas' Institute and the Consolider-Ingenio 2010 “El tiempo de los derechos (The Age of Rights)” project. “After this validation phase”, she added, “improvements and new opportunities will be incorporated into the platform to achieve its complete functioning”.
Getting the platform running
In order for SEMADISC to work, there has to be a legal team which act as consultants, formed by associations and public entities that collaborate on the project, offering, in any case, a free service for those needing it. The process begins when a user with a problem makes application. His/her application is then studied by the mediators, who will be in charge of getting in touch with all of those involved in the case. Once the process starts, the problems will be resolved extra-judicially, thanks to the consulting from the legal experts who participate in this project.
The platform has been developed taking into account technical details and assuring that the legal requisites involved in the system are complied with. SEMADISC is based on the W3C standards, an international organism dedicated to the standardization of the Web, for issues of mobility, as well as for correctness of the application code. Special care has been taken with the users’ privacy and security, and adaption to the legislation in the area of protection of data, adapting the entire process to Law 15/1999, regarding protection of data of a personal nature. "This system responds to RD 1417/2006, of December 1, which carries out Law 51/2003, regarding equal opportunity and non- discrimination and universal access for persons with disabilities, known as LIONDAU, which carries out the legislators’ provision of the creating of an alternative system of arbitration to resolve the issues presented by carrying out this law", Mª del Carmen Barranco explained. SEMADISC was created as a platform for support for these kinds of cases, based on information technologies to offer support throughout the entire process. The feature brings together the system and people with disabilities, who have distinct problems in carrying out this type of process in the usual fashion. In addition, the tool has been designed following a flexible fluid process capable of being adapted to any mediation process in any legal ambit (mercantile, administrative, etc.)
This project has been funded by the IMSERSO (Institute for Older Citizens and Social Services) and has the CEAPAT (National Center for Personal Autonomy and Technical Aids) as its point of reference. The project has produced a great deal of expectation in the area of disability, sparking interest among organizations such as CERMI (Spanish Committee of People with Disabilities Representatives), ONCE (National Organization of Blind People in Spain), CNSE (The Spanish Confederation of Deaf People) or the Real Patronato (The Royal Patronage), who have offered their collaboration in evaluating the first prototype.