Unfortunately, this isn’t referenced. However, the Charity Commission for England and Wales reveals a total annual income of all registered main charities exceeding £26billion and that seems to be a lot of money. However, the real rationale for this post lies in the accompanying text. Still unreferenced but I know it echoes current research e.g. the Scope ComRes survey showing attitudes to ‘disabled’ people have deteriorated , and the recent report uncovering disability hate crime No Hiding Place. So although there are no sources, I’m quoting from the blog directly.
There is a stigma associated with being labelled as ‘disabled’;
Being labelled disabled can impact on your ability to get, and keep, a job;
Being disabled is not seen in any way as a positive personal attribute by the wider society.
How do you read these statements? I think they contain a potential ambiguity which is damaging to the individuals concerned. The word disabled is described as being attached to the person by a label. You can label something without it necessarily being correct or appropriate, so this isn’t necessarily calling the person disabled, but what is missing is the next stage where the reader needs to be reminded we are disabled as much by a hostile environment and social attitudes as by our diversity or difference.
The Disability Rights Movement called for a Social Model of Disability to replace the existing Medical Model. They wanted to show how we are disabled by external barriers – in the built environment and in cultural attitudes and misconceptions – which fail to cater for a broad enough range of diversity and difference. This approach does not deny the reality of impairment – it is about calling for social change in order to reduce barriers to access and participation and a starting point is the language we use.
I know it sounds pedantic but there are key differences between the phrase ‘being disabled’ and ‘being disabled by society’. It’s an important distinction and one which needs to be kept in mind.
Talking to a group of level three online-journalism students about digital divides. The group made accurate suggestions for what digital divides might look like, including incompatible file formats, unequal access to computers in different parts of the world and people having access problems with content. All perfect examples of digital inequities and discrimination.
I’m suggesting it’s the responsibility of the Web Workers (eg developers, designers, content creators etc) to ensure accessibility and a student asks if accessibility should be the responsibility of the user instead. That’s a really good question. We all want to be independent and in control of our lives via all the appropriate tools. In an increasingly digital society, we want equal access to online communication, information and entertainment. So should web workers design content to be accessible, or should the technology have an interface which translates the digital data uploaded by the developer into customised content for the user?
The BBC My Display http://www.bbc.co.uk/accessibility/mydisplay/ trial seemed to be a step in this direction. My Display encouraged users to customise the text and colours to suit their own preferences, with these choices being stored as a cookie for the next time.
Multiple reasons given for the My Display trial being withdrawn. These included the new and unexpected complexity of digital resources, content being delivered by IP on multiple platforms, operating systems and browsers delivering more customisation features, cloud computing requiring bigger solutions and the move from static webpages to database driven webs with live feeds and richer interactions. The list goes on and the conclusion was the My Display trials were neither flexible nor scaleable enough ‘to cope with the growth, technical diversity and ambition of the BBC’s digital services’.
So although we have the access technology to ensure 100% accessibility on the part of the user, it looks like we are moving even further away from the focus on accessible content. This is close to other recent developments which try to shift responsibility for access onto the user. The re is the growing expectation that people should adjust their browser settings and the move towards directing users to separate accessibility web pages; ‘solutions’ which assume a confidence and competence with navigation, form fields and web jargon which many simply haven’t got. These answers are as unworkable as the My Display solution. At the present time it looks like it keeps coming back to the need for inclusive digital content in the first place.
Great day for digital inclusion – or it would be if only the media would report on it. Neil Lewis Chief Executive of AbilityNet has highlighted the need for addressing inclusion because of the government’s ‘digital by default’ campaign. I’ve searched on the BBC, Guardian, Telegraph and even the Daily Mail websites but the news doesn’t seem to got there yet. (incidently the Daily Mail returns no instances of AbilityNet which suggests it has never referred to the issue of digital exclusion – shame on you!)
This lack of media awareness is critical. The government’s intention for access to information and delivery of services to be ‘digital by default’ is simply not getting enough publicity; in particular with regard to those 8-9 million citizens the government has identified as digitally excluded.
How is the population being told of the move towards an online welfare state?
How will they find out about the plans to merge all benefits into a single Universal Credit to be applied for, awarded and managed online – unless the media pick it up and run with it?
The government is building a new computer system for this in spite of the failure of the NHS IT project the damming evidence in the System Error report which suggests ‘digital by default’ has all the potential for creating a new digital divide, one which will affect some of the most marginalised sections of society.
If you are digitally excluded you are invisible by default. As the platforms for discussion and debate become increasingly digital so those without access are being denied participation. Last week I spoke to a local group of webdevelopers, and yesterday to a group of Year 1 Social Work students, about the social impact of a digital society. We have to keep chipping away at the mountain of invisibility in order to surface these issues. Social media is one of the best places to begin. Blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking – we need to get the message out there so those who have the power to make a difference can start to do so.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission have published their inquiry into disability-related harassment. This is what the media call ‘hate crime.’ It is violence perpetrated against vulnerable members of society who are unable to stand up for themselves or have friends or relatives to protect them. The inquiry highlights ten cases where people died or were seriously injured and the EHRC are calling this harassment.
The OED says to harass is ‘To wear out, tire out, or exhaust with fatigue, care, trouble, etc.’ and the act of harassing is to ‘To trouble or vex by repeated attacks.’
Surely crime towards people disabled resulting in serious injury and death is far more than harassment? By diluting the language in this way the EHRC are diluting the effectiveness of the message. This is not harassment; it is aggravated assault and murder and those who have lost their lives and been injured in these dreadful ways deserve much better than this.
The idea of digital narratives or digital storytelling is not new. The University of Gloucester has a section on Digital Storytelling under Pedagogic Tools and Guides and I’d like to investigate this further; digital narratives as pedagogical tools for combining critical thinking with reflective practice. Not just the skills involved in making your own narrative (selection, rejection, sequencing, synthesising, presenting) but also peer assessment and sharing across disciplines and cultures as a means of discovery and enquiry. Apart from the opportunity for exploring creativity and acquiring multiple digital literacies, the scope for internationalisation may also be worth considering. Here’s a link from Daniela Gachago from Cape Peninsula University of Technology who I met at the recent Diversity Conference The video is a digital narrative from Nonhlanhla Nyingwa and her words, music and images combine to create a powerful story.
I know digital story telling is not new. The Internet is full of them. But I wonder if we could make more out of the processes and in doing so put critical reflective theory into practice – while maybe even having some fun. Not everyone will agree. The thought of having to manipulate multiple digital media clips will not go down well with many staff and students. But we’re living in a digital society in a digital age and graduate attributes must include digital literacies alongside transferable skills of critical thinking and reflective practice. Involvement in the creation and sharing of your own digital narratives – which could also be a digital cv or digital portfolio – must be worth consideration as part of subject curriculums.
This link is to my public iGoogle page listing a range of short Assistive Technology videos. These demonstrate the inherent flexibility of digital data to adapt to multiple input and output devices. Link to iGoogle Assistive Technology videos
I’ve got mixed feelings about the SimplicITy computer with its six-button desktop aimed at ‘people aged over 60 who are unfamiliar with PCs and the internet’. Part of me thinks what a great idea – not everyone can afford a Mac and the Windows OS has become so (unnecessarily?) complex. But what would the response be if the target audience were those classified as disabled or from a named country, class or culture. In an environment where everyday language is subject to the stringent tests to determine its political correctness, then it must be technically ageist to provide a product that implies those over 60 need something ‘simple’.
Regarding current website design – while it is far from perfect and I am continually frustrated by its inaccessibility – the direction remains ‘one web for all’. While some webs may be developed with a specific group in mind – e.g. high contrast/low image for the visually impaired – then this doesn’t deny access to anyone else. I wonder if a commercial move towards the provision of customised interfaces designed for specific groups in mind is beneficial to web equity or not. Shouldn’t we be working towards one web for all and one set of web skills for all too?
Sarah’s Story is a 90 second video designed for television and banned by Clearcast, the television watchdog, as containing images that were ‘too distressing’. The aim of the advert was to raise awareness of Motor Neuron Disease. Thankfully, by banning it, Clearcast have increased publicity of both MND and the MND Association. Its wrong when the reality of disease, deformity and disablement is considered ‘too distressing’ and something we should be protected from. It should be the other way around. Every application of the label disability involves a person and these attitudes both devalue and diminish status. For more information about the ban see the Telegraph 25/07/09 and the Transcript from You and Yours, Radio 4 30/07/09
I take the point raised in a comment on a previous post about digitisation and have been wondering if there’s a chicken and egg situation here. Which came first? The digital data or the means to distribute it? Let me give an example of where I’m coming from when I say digital data is increasing the digital divide.
A Yahoo user group has uploaded a pdf file (single format, no Adobe Reader, another issue) and sent out a group email with a link to the document. To access it the blind user has to go through a process of identifying the link, saving the link, then opening the link, which only then takes them to the login page for the group but that involves logging into Yahoo. A blind person has problems joining a Yahoo group in the first place because that involves a captcha and they can’t see it – or hear it – so someone else has to set it up for them – but when they’re on their own they don’t know their login details – as sighted people we can’t always remember our login details – and they can’t read them – and you can’t multi task with this screen reader so even if you had them stored on an email then to get back to that, then back to the Yahoo login page, would be a lengthy process (and in our fast mouse-click world an incredibly tortuous one). They want to read this file; the email has made it sound interesting and relevant and the whole nature of the group is about self help and empowerment but they can’t access it. The result is ever increasing levels of frustration at being excluded and being dependent on others. I agree that digitisation should be increasing access to the written word, like the printing press revolutionised access to text; but on an individual level that was only so long as you could read the appropriate language. We operate independently in a sighted world but visual impairment (VI) takes away that independence and while digitisation should be widening participation, the reality for VI is that access is hidden behind multiple layers of technology and you can’t separate the two. Chicken or Egg? Which was my point in saying “increasing digitisation of text is also increasing the digital divide and putting in place yet more barriers to participation”.