Tagged: disability research

Disability and Rehabilitation: Special Issue on Universal Design

Disability and Rehabilitation have published a Special Issue on Universal Design (vol 36, no. 16, 2014), edited by Rob Imrie and Rachael Luck. This includes my paper Web accessibility standards and disability: developing critical perspectives on accessibility‘ (abstract follows below). If you would like to download the paper, but do not have access to the journal you can access one of 15 ePrints I have to give away (this access has now expired 22/01/2015). Alternatively, get in touch with me directly via selewthwaite [at] gmail.com. Here are the details:

Abstract: Web accessibility standards and disability: developing critical perspectives on accessibility.

Purpose: Currently, dominant web accessibility standards do not respect disability as a complex and culturally contingent interaction; recognizing that disability is a variable, contrary and political power relation, rather than a biological limit. Against this background there is clear scope to broaden the ways in which accessibility standards are understood, developed and applied.
Methods: Commentary.
Results: The values that shape and are shaped by legislation promote universal, statistical and automated approaches to web accessibility. This results in web accessibility standards conveying powerful norms fixing the relationship between technology and disability, irrespective of geographical, social, technological or cultural diversity.
Conclusions: Web accessibility standards are designed to enact universal principles; however, they express partial and biopolitical understandings of the relation between disability and technology. These values can be limiting, and potentially counter-productive, for example, for the majority of disabled people in the “Global South” where different contexts constitute different disabilities and different experiences of web access. To create more robust, accessible outcomes for disabled people, research and standards practice should diversify to embrace more interactional accounts of disability in different settings.

Imrie and Luck’s special issue is a landmark collection in the conceptual development of Universal Design.  Amongst the papers, ‘Parallels and problems of normalization in rehabilitation and universal design: enabling connectivities’, by Barbara E. Gibson is available as an Open Access PDF. Other titles include:

  • ‘Designing inclusive environments: rehabilitating the body and the relevance of universal design’, by Rob Imrie, Rachael Luck
  • ‘Universally design social policy: when disability disappears?’ by Jerome Bickenbach
  • ‘Universal design and the challenge of diversity: reflections on the principles of UD, based on empirical research of people’s mobility’ by Myriam Winance
  • ‘Universal Design and disability: an interdisciplinary perspective’ by Inger Marie Lid
  • ‘DeafSpace and the principles of universal design’ by Claire Edwards and Gill Harold
  • ‘About the nature of design in universal design’ by Ann Heylighen
  • ‘Situating universal design architecture: designing with whom?’ by Paul Jones

Further presentations and podcasts from the series of seminars that led this this special issue are available via the universalising design project website which rewards exploration. Comments and questions, as ever, are welcome! 

Student experiences of disability and social networks in Higher Education

My 2011 PhD thesis “Disability 2.0: Student dis/Connections. A study of student experiences of disability and social networks on campus in Higher Education”  is now publicly available via the University of Nottingham’s eTheses repository. The thesis document is an accessible PDF, weighing in at 7.5MB. The fully bibliographic reference is:

  • Lewthwaite, Sarah (2011) Disability 2.0: student dis/connections. A study of student experiences of disability and social networks on campus in higher education. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham. http://etheses.nottingham.ac.uk/2406/

This is the thesis abstract in full:

For many young people, social networks are an essential part of their student experience. Using a Foucauldian perspective, this qualitative study explores the networked experiences of disabled students to examine how dis/ability difference is ascribed and negotiated within social networks. Data comprises 34 internet-enabled interviews with 18 participants from three English universities. Accessible field methods recognise participant preferences and circumstances. Data is analysed using discourse analysis, with an attention to context framed by activity theory.

Disabled students’ networked experiences are found to be complex and diverse. For a proportion, the network shifts the boundaries of disability, creating non-disabled subjectivities. For these students, the network represents the opportunity to mobilise new ways of being, building social capital and mitigating impairment.

Other participants experience the network as punitive and disabling. Disability is socio-technically ascribed by the social networking site and the networked public. Each inducts norms that constitute disability as a visible, deviant and deficit identity. In the highly normative conditions of the network, where every action is open to scrutiny, impairment is subjected to an unequal gaze that produces disabled subjectivities. For some students with unseen impairments, a social experience of disability is inducted for the first time.

As a result, students deploy diverse strategies to retain control and resist deviant status. Self-surveillance, self-discipline and self-advocacy are evoked, each involving numerous social, cognitive and technological tactics for self-determination, including disconnection. I conclude that networks function both as Technologies of the Self and as Technologies of Power. For some disabled students, the network supports ‘normal’ status. For others, it must be resisted as a form of social domination.

Importantly, in each instance, the network propels students towards disciplinary techniques that mask diversity, rendering disability and the possibility of disability invisible. Consequently, disability is both produced and suppressed by the network.

The research was funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and completed at the Learning Sciences Research Institute at the University of Nottingham. I am continuing to work in this area, so, as ever, comments are welcome, or get in touch directly. I look forward to hearing from you!

#9 Critical Approaches to Accessibility for Technology Enhanced Learning by Sarah Lewthwaite

To take advantage of Routledge’s free Education journal access over the course of April 2011, I’ve presented 19 papers to highlight research with powerful applications in the fields of technology, disability and education.  Comments and suggestions are, as always, welcome. This is my final post in this series.

Lewthwaite, Sarah (2011) ‘Viewpoint: Critical Approaches to Accessibility for Technology Enhanced Learning’. Learning, Media and Technology. Vol 36, Issue 1, pp 85-89.

Learning Media and Technology
Learning Media and Technology

Last year I was invited by Neil Selwyn to submit a viewpoint article for the journal of Learning, Media and Technology, based on insights from my PhD research.  Learning, Media and Technology is one of the journals listed as part of Routledge’s Education Free for all, so my article and others are available for download to everyone regardless of subscription status until the end of the month.

Readers may know that editor Neil Selwyn has published substantially in the area of digital inclusion, frequently supplying a critical analysis on the political forces that shape technology discourses. I particularly recommend his research on low and non-users of technology (unfortunately, not openly available online).  As such, I was delighted to be given the opportunity to contribute to the journal. But that’s enough gushing. My article conducts a brief review of accessibility discourse, and should offer a welcome orientation for readers interested in e-learning and technology enhanced learning. The Journal of Learning, Media and Technology also rewards exploration – so if you’re part of the twitterati, facebook-elite or blogosphere and want to know more about your modus operandi, be sure to check out the journals’ contents.

#8 ‘Digital Agility and Disabled Learners’ by Seale, Draffan and Wald

Over the course of April I have been highlighting influential disability, technology and education research published by Routledge. All the papers cited are available for free this month to all.

SEALE, J., DRAFFAN, E. A. & WALD, M. (2010) Digital agility and digital decision-making: conceptualising digital inclusion in the context of disabled learners in higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 35, 4, 445-461.

Studies in Higher Education
Studies in Higher Education

My last post outlining a selection of papers on disability and the internet was focussed on research that has taken place prior to the advent of Web 2.0. If you’ve been following my blog – you’ll also know that the vast majority of papers listed have sprung from the pages of Disability and Society. Today’s offering is strikingly different. Digital Agility and Digital Decision-Making is a paper based on landmark research undertaken by the team behind the LexDis project: Mike Wald, EADraffan and JaneSeale. LexDis been concerned with the use of technology amongst disabled learners in higher education. The strength of LexDis is that it demonstrates the capabilities of disabled students, their strategies and tactics for technology use with regard to the media they actually use – with participants actively engaging in the development of the research.

Digital Agility and Digital Decision-Making recognises and theorises disabled users’ agency, how disabled students’ ”break and enter” otherwise closed systems, the cost/benefit analyses they conduct when applying assistive technologies and so on. In this way disabled students’ ‘digital agility’ is recognised (arguably, for the first time) and presented in a lucid and viable framework.  This does not mean that barriers to accessibility can be left unresolved, or that digital skills should not be taught – but the authors identify the value of an empowerment model of development that recognises disabled people as collaborators and agents, rather than passive recipients of digital services.  As such this paper is highly recommended for anyone interested in HCI, user experience, accessibility, e-learning or assistive technology.

If you are accessing this page outside of Routledge’s free for all – be sure to check the documents stemming from the Lexdis Project itself. These are freely available day in, day out. The reports, methodology documents and other papers published from the research all reward attention.

Finally, another essential aspect of JISC funded and JISC TechDis work springing from Southampton’s accessibility Gurus  is the Web2Access website. A task-based resource which allows educators (and anyone else) to describe the task they want to achieve with students or other users, and then presents evaluative information about Web 2.0 technologies available. I’ve blogged about this before, but it’s worth saying twice: It’s a great tool.

#7 Three papers on Disability and the Internet

Disability and Society
Disability and Society

Today I highlight three papers from Disability and Society that investigate digital disability prior to the advent of Web 2.0. All three papers nominated today represent research that is resolutely Web 1.0, concerning text-based and often distance environments. Some are based on research that took place in the late 90s in a discourse that is fast moving, as a result, these papers are presented with a caveat: Things have moved on. Nonetheless, any research into disability and the web owes a great deal to this fundament of internet research which attends to the social and contextual facets of disability that are central to user experience, but all too frequently fall outside the boundaries of accessibility and user experience research.

Each paper is freely available to all for the remainder of April 2011 as part of Routledge’s Education Free For All event. However, readers may like to know that outside this period Anderberg and Jonsson’s Being There and Natilene Bowker’s trailblazing PhD Thesis remain open to all out-of-hours.  Further research by the authors listed can also be found with the help of your good friend Google Scholar.

BOWKER, N. & TUFFIN, K. (2002) Disability Discourses for Online Identities. Disability & Society, 17, 3, 327-344.

Bowker and Tuffin grapple with the invisibility of some disabilities online in this research-based examination of disclosure and social context. They identify a ‘choice to disclose’ repetoir amongst participants relating to relevance, anonymity and normality. Although notions of ‘anonymity’ have been eroded in today’s networked environments where identity is often consolidated, the Web’s continuing role as a space in which the positioning of identity may take place within a subjectivity removed from impairment continues to inform notions of disability online. [readers may want to follow this treatise with Nick Watson’s Disability and Identity, for an alternate view].

SEYMOUR, W. & LUPTON, D. (2004) Holding the line online: exploring wired relationships for people with disabilities. Disability & Society, 19, 4, 291-305.

Seymour and Lupton’s research is amongst the earliest presented here, concerning interviews with 35 people in the late 90s. The authors develop their line of analysis along a continuum of other communication technologies – such as the phone. However, their discussion critically develops many of the embodiment and binary issues of disabled/non-disabled that in my view, have not yet been sufficiently theorised in critical disability studies.

ANDERBERG, P. & JONSSON, B. (2005) Being there. Disability & Society, 20, 7, 719-733.

Anderberg and Jonsson’s unhelpfully vague title and lack of keywords should not deter readers. Their phenomenographic investigation focusses on the experiences of 22 participants with significant mobility impairments. Their results speak clearly of the affordances internet technologies give some disabled people in terms of independence and interactions unmediated by Personal Assistants.

#6 ‘The Anti-Social Model of Disability’ by Dewsbury et al.

DEWSBURY, G., CLARKE, K., RANDALL, D., ROUNCEFIELD, M. & SOMMERVILLE, I. (2004) The anti-social model of disability. Disability & Society, 19, 2. p.145-158

Disability and Society
Disability and Society

There continues to be a marked seperation between Engineering/Computer Science and Disability Studies in academia. Despite the advance of accessibility discourse and significant developments in Science and Technology Studies, where Computer Science and Disability Studies do meet, the knowledge exchange is often limited, failing to fully utilise the strengths of either discipline. Dewsbury et al’s paper may go some way to explaining one aspect of this disciplinary bifurcation. They consider the Social Model of Disability (the ‘big idea’ of the disability movement [Shakespeare & Watson, 2002]) from a design perspective and attack this representation of disability, and it’s wider sociological framing, claiming it ‘ironicises ordinary experience, treating it as somehow partial and flawed in its ignorance of what is really going on’. In this way the authors identify the social model as profoundly ‘anti-social’.

As a sociologist, I fundamentally disagree with many of the authors vehement assertions about sociology (in particular, I feel they fail to engage with the fundamental practical ethics that Disability Studies is built upon – a determination to elevate practice over theory, despite referring to their own practical politics). Nonetheless, Dewsbury et al. offer a powerful reminder that there are alternative and grounded routes into disability praxis that can deliver real positive benefits for disabled people. Importantly, they also critique the dangers of sociological hyperbole and the rabbit hole of theory – such dangers have also been forcefully identified by many disability academics and activists, and here the useful confluence of disciplinary exchange begins for an engaged reader. Dewsbury et al., manifest an engineering perspective, seeking routes into design, and testing disability theory at the same time, proffering significant food for thought for all in the process.  Reader responses are very welcome. If you can recommend further reading on this disciplinary intersection, please signpost below!

#4 ‘Disability, Technology and e-Learning’ edited by Jane Seale

Disability, Technology and e-Learning, a Special Issue of Research in Learning Technology, edited by Jane Seale.

Research in Learning Technology
Research in Learning Technology

So far this month, I’ve introduced three influential research papers from Disability and Society to highlight academic research that is free to all readers this month as part of Routledge’s Education Free For All event. Today, we divert to a new journal – Research in Learning Technology. [update: 5th Jan 2011] Research in Learning Technology is now Open Access and all back issues are available. Research in Learning Technology is the journal of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) previously entitled ALT-J, and more specifically, I’d like to highlight a special issue of the journal devoted to accessibility and edited by Jane Seale (Vol 14, Issue 1).

Nine papers and articles are included. As this issue is now five years old, many of the authors have substantially developed their positions as contexts and discourses in the field have developed. Nonetheless, many of these papers remain relevant to the field with implications for wider uses of technology, and I recommend this issue as a Who’s Who of significant authors in Accessibility in e-Learning. In the UK and elsewhere, Universities frequently represent key sites of cutting edge accessibility research. As such, this offers an excellent spring board into more recent accessibility literature across the education journals freely available this month – so flex your search operators!

Note: Many of these authors are on Twitter (for example, @briankelly @sloandr @lawrie @EADraffan @janeseale and others). Be sure to seek them out. If you are accessing this blog post after Routledge’s Open Access period finishes.  In addition,  many of the authors above have also published freely available research elsewhere. For example, Brian Kelly’s stellar back catalogue can be found at UK Web Focus.  Enjoy!

Disability Research Forum

Two pieces of news today. Firstly, on September 30th I submitted my PhD thesis “Disability 2.0: Student dis/Connections. A study of student experiences of disability and social networks on campus in Higher Education”. As a result, from this point forward I will be showing my blog a little more TLC. However, my second piece of news may distract you from a revived and refreshed 32 Days Remaining! The all *NEW* Disability Research Forum blog now also vies for your attention. I heartily recommend the DRF blog to you for UK disability research news and updates on the Research Forum’s own activities. They are always welcoming to new members, so if you want to present, lead a discussion or simply participate from afar, the blog is a great place to start.

Disability Research Forum 2010-2011

I recently recieved this call on behalf of the Disability Research Forum. They write:

Now into its sixth year, the Disability Research Forum (DRF) continues to foster informal networks of disability scholars and provide researchers with opportunities to present their work in a friendly and encouraging environment. 

Dates for upcoming seminars are below (we have tried to vary the day and time of the meetings to allow a range of people to attend). 

  1. Thurs. 14th October 2010: 11.30am-1.30pm
  2. Mon. 15th November 2010: 12pm-2pm
  3. Tues. 14th December 2010: 12pm-2pm
  4. Tues. 15th February 2011: 1pm-3pm
  5. Fri. 25th March 2011: 11.30am-1.30pm
  6. Tues. 12th April 2011: 2pm-4pm

If you, or anybody you know, would like to present at a DRF seminar please get in touch.  Alternatively, let us know if there is an issue/article/academic book you’d like to facilitate a round table discussion on.   Even if you do not intend to present, feel free to come along, listen and share your thoughts.  

This year we are also planning to hold some seminar-days – details of these will follow shortly  … and remember 14th-15th September 2011 sees the return of the hugely successful ‘Normalcy and the Mundane’ Conference at Manchester Metropolitan University.

These informal seminars are held in Room 10111 (First Floor) Arundel Building, Charles Street, City Campus, Sheffield Hallam University, S1 1WB. 

For lunchtime slots, please feel free to bring your own food and drink.

For more information (including access information) please contact: Dr Rebecca Mallett.

We are always thrilled to have new faces so please spread the word by circulating this as widely as possible – thank-you