Hat-trick – all talk and no action?

It’s been a busy few months for e-accessibility. You could be excused for missing the Single Equality Act  October 1st because the media seemed to miss it too. The Act significantly increased responsibility on information providers to ensure their online content is accessible for disabled people; so it can only be a matter of time before a successful exposure of the inaccessibility of 99% of public websites to access technology – can’t it?

Next: the e-Accessibility Action Plan: Making Digital Content Available to Everyone on October 12th. This reminds us e-Accessibility is essential as the government delivers more and more services online  (Universal Credit anyone?) and will ‘ensure accessibility, affordability and equal participation for disabled users in the digital economy’

Final player in this triptych: BS 8878:2010 Web accessibility – Code of practice on December 7th.  The BSI says it’s the first British Standard to address the growing challenge of digital inclusion Hurray… but then identifies the excluded as being the disabled and older people Boo…..

Two issues here. Firstly the government appears to be moving further away from Labour’s explicit linkage of digital exclusion with existing categories of social exclusion. The UK National plan for digital participation included low income households, people with no formal qualifications, single parents, new immigrants and those living in geographically remote communities alongside older and disabled people (2010:13) as groups likely to experience digital exclusion. Secondly the new trend of linking disability and older people is worrying; it’s a blanket expression that implies ‘not part of the workforce’ therefore not contributing to the economy. The message that inclusive practice benefits all is missing.

The social model of disability was a giant step for individual rights to participation but the original meaning (an individual disabled by society not by themselves) is being diluted and the ‘society’ part forgotten. Slowly but surely we are moving back to a deficit medical model. Boundary lines are being redrawn and the label ‘disabled’ continues to imply exclusion through unwelcome difference. We need to fight this discriminatory mergence. The Papworth Trust write 83% of people  disabled by society acquire their disability in life; they are not born with it. All of us however, will get old.

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