In 1994, the UK government made the decision to use technology to deliver ‘improved’ public services via the Internet. In 1995 and 2005 Disability Discrimination Acts were passed. In 2009 the Digital Britain report made explicit the needs of those who are digitally absent. The report highlights links between digital and social exclusion. These links are pertinent but there is a danger of creating a mutually exclusive binary where the real issue escapes attention. The Governments newly published ICT Strategy is evidence that this is happening.
Section 2 UK Public Sector ICT in the 21st Century states how “Technology can be used to provide access to citizens who might otherwise be excluded from services delivered using traditional methods.” So far, so good. What better use of technology than to enable those unable to see text to listen to it instead? But the document doesn’t even go there. Instead the two examples it gives are ‘using websites to inform teenagers/children about the dangers of drugs (FRANK – talktofrank.com), or providing online learning for young people excluded from mainstream education through NotSchool.net.” What about the needs of those already excluded from analogue text who continue to be excluded from digital equivalents. In 5.2 Strategic principles there is one mention of the word ‘accessibility’. The concept, so crucial to the Internet, doesn’t even qualify for a tag. From Gutenberg to Google, access continues to be denied.