Technology for people, not disabilities: ensuring access and inclusion (summary)


Background The authors considered that the recent rapid development of communication technology should break down barriers and increase access for people with disabilities. However they believe that although they are associated with access and integration the new technologies can actually create social exclusion for disabled people, either around the way in which they are used and prescribed or, less obviously, where the design of technology assumes that users will confirm to societal norms.

What was the aim of the study? The authors aimed to look at the way in which assistive technology can result in new forms of social exclusion and to suggest ways in which inclusive and accessible technology can promote greater access and flexibility for disabled people.

What did the authors do? The paper aims to shift the focus from 'assistive' technologies to consider what it might mean for all technologies to be inclusive and accessible. They advocate for a more inclusive view of technology being accessible to all.

They look at the way in which assistive technology creates subtle forms of exclusion, for example on line forums and social networking sites sometimes fail to meet accessibility guidelines, meaning some people with disabilities are excluded from a central part of current social life for young people.

The authors believe that some assistive technology is designed to 'fix' disabled people, to get them to approximate able-bodied norms rather than accept a range of normality. They state that this 'ensures that there is technology that is designed for disabled people and technology designed for presumed non-disabled people' and 'that the latter need not be accessible because of the former'.

They discuss that exclusion can be because accessibility is designed into technology as a retrofit or add-on, rather than being an integral part of the original design.

Conclusions: The authors argue that by offering technology that is accessible to all, rather than assistive to people with disabilities, there would be universal benefits. It might also reduce the rate of rejection of assistive technology which might be perceived as out dated or unacceptable by younger disabled people.

They suggest including disabled people in the design, development, implementation and marketing of technologies with the aim of developing technology that is accessible and responsive and which would increase accessibility and usability for all users.

They believe that technology cannot be isolated from social context and must be designed with inclusion in mind, not as an afterthought.

Things you may want to look into:

Improving web access for individuals who rely on augmentative and alternative communication

The iPad and Mobile Technology Revolution

Added to site February 2014