Tagged: new media

#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.

#5 ‘Hierarchies of Impairment’ by Mark Deal

DEAL, M. (2003) Disabled people’s attitudes toward other impairment groups: a hierarchy of impairments. Disability & Society, 18, 7, 13.

Disability and Society
Disability and Society

This is the second paper I’ve nominated from the pen of Mark Deal, and it’s another cracker. In this paper Deal discusses Hierarchies of Impairment. Once again, this term is essential to building an analytic vocabulary of disability for lay people, academics and techies alike. Hierarchies of Impairment have been researched since the 1970s, however, where previous work has explored how different impairments receive different status in society (and, as a result, with regard to technology, different resources and research attention) Deal extends this analysis to incorporate the attitudes of disabled people themselves. Deal’s research has powerful applied implications – particularly for those of us seeking to create inclusive environments. It identifies how we might desconstruct mainstream notions of ‘disability’ to identify those most marginalised within society. It also highlights how disablism (and aversive disablism) can function between disabled groups, allowing an analysis of representation. For those of us in technical disciplines, Deal’s thesis also allows us to evaluate the ways in which hierarchies of impairment are re-orientated by new contexts (for example, the internet) and different cultures.

A forthcoming publication co-authored with Henny Swan pushes this envelope with respect to Web Standards and the Majority World. Watch this space.

A final word: Hierarchies of Impairment is only available for free via Routledge this month to non-subscribers (April, 2011). If you’re accessing this page outside these dates, investigate Mark Deal’s excellent PhD thesis (2006) Attitudes of Disabled People Toward Other Disabled People and Impairment Groups which is available through the Enham website.

#3 ‘The use and non-use of assistive technologies’ by Soderstrom and Ytterhus

The third instalment in an academic free for all.

SÖDERSTRÖM, S. & YTTERHUS, B. (2010) The use and non-use of assistive technologies from the world of information and communication technology by visually impaired young people: a walk on the tightrope of peer inclusion. Disability & Society, 25, 3, 303-315.

Disability and Society
Disability and Society

This paper by Sylvia Soderstrom and Borgunn Ytterhus presents an essential insight into the importance of social context for the take up of technology, and the place of assistive technologies within this matrix. They remind us that users do not exist in a vaccuum, that, in affluent societies ‘how people use technology is symbolic of various values and identities’. This qualitative study is relatively small, but its results are referent to a swathe of complex socio-technical relations. In this sense it is powerfully illustrative. Where ICT is found to broadly symbolise competence, belonging and independence – the specific nature of specialised assistive technologies can symbolise restriction, difference and dependency. The implications of such findings have resonance across Human Factors, HCI and education, and emphasise the peer-to-peer nature of in/accessibility and its delivery.

#2 ‘Identity and Disability’ by Nick Watson

The second post in my solo April blog festival.

WATSON, N. (2002) Well, I know this is going to sound very strange to you, but I don’t see myself as a disabled person: identity and disability. Disability & Society, 17, 5, 18.

Disability and Society
Disability and Society

In March 2011 Aleks Krotoski, UK technology journalist and researcher wrote a piece about Disability and the Internet for the Observer. Although I recognised many of her arguments and observations, I disagreed with several key aspects of her analysis. In particular, her assertion that disabled people ‘pass’ as non-disabled online. Hers is a very blunt statement – and it is this concern, that disabled people who do not present themselves (or see themselves) as disabled online might in some way be complicit in maintaining, rather than challenging a disabling status quo that Watson’s research tears into.

Here Watson challenges a ‘passing’ interpretation of the actions of disabled people – presenting disabled people’s own accounts and identifying in the process an opposite interpretation, a political assertion of disability as normal. Watson’s research gives important nuance to this crucial area. For anyone writing, designing or researching disability and technology – this paper makes essential reading.

Note: My PhD explores this territory with respect to Social Networks. For an additional alternative reponse to Kotoski’s article, see how Ouch’s Disability Bitch goes into CyberSpasm

#1 ‘Aversive disablism: subtle prejudice toward disabled people’ by Mark Deal

To take advantage of Routledge’s free Education journal access over the course of April 2011, I’m presenting papers to highlight research with powerful applications in the fields of technology, disability and education. Comments and suggestions are, as always, welcome.

DEAL, M. (2007) Aversive disablism: subtle prejudice toward disabled people. Disability & Society, 22, 1, 14.

Disability and Society
Disability and Society

Aversive Disablism is a little-known social phenomenon that exerts huge influence in the lives of people with disability. Deal’s paper highlights the importance of understanding and challenging this form of subtle disablism to ensure (amongst other aims) that design communities responsible for our built (or digital) environment do not perpetuate a society that actively disables people with impairments. In this sense, aversive disablism represents an important concept, without which any vocabulary of disability or design is incomplete. I drew on this paper for my 2010 Blogging Against Disablism post and Web4All joint paper with Brian Kelly and David Sloan last year, applying Deal’s arguments to incorporate online environments. Deal writes lucidly for a broad audience, as such this paper represents essential reading for all.

Further reading:

  • Consider Goggin and Newell’s groundbreaking 2003 book Digital Disability. This identifies the outcomes of web developer’s disregard for disabled users requirements  as “doing production”, resulting in a disabling web that enacts disability. The authors arguments are developed for contemporary Web 2.0 discourse by Ellis and Kent (2010) in their book Disability and New Media. Ellis and Kent develop this notion of “doing production” with regard to Social Networking Sites – their insights into the structural production of disability in social networks, I feel, resonates strongly with Deal’s notion of aversive disablism.

Next post out on Monday 4th.

30 Days of Academia: Your Guide to Routledge in April 2011

Over the course of April, Routledge are giving free open access to all Education journals, with no academic subscription or institutional affiliation necessary and no strings attached.  The Routledge stable includes some mighty journals for those involved in Technology, Disability and Education, including Disability and Society, the Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research and Studies in Higher Education. Together, these journals and their peers offer access to hundreds of pieces of groundbreaking research.

To celebrate, from Friday April 1st onwards, I will introduce and link a selection of papers that have been hugely influential in developing and challenging my thinking on disability, technology and education. This curated compilation represents a guided tour of some of Routledge’s ‘Greatest Hits’, to inform readers outside universities (in particular, techies, geeks, accessibility professionals, and others) and, I hope, help open up and apply disability theory and digital inclusion research for debate amongst new audiences. The list will also have relevance for scholars and academics in the field, and those whose universities do not currently subscribe to these journals (for example, my own institution, the University of Nottingham, does not supply access to the Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research, I have my associate lectureship at Sheffield Hallam to thank for this particular literature hack!).

So, over the course of April I invite you to join me as I introduce each paper. You can subscribe to the blog to receive an alert via RSS feed or email when each post goes live, or simply drop by in over the course of the month and see what my suggested bibliography has to offer. If you are considering compiling a similar list in conjunction with Routledge’s Education free-for-all, be sure to signpost below. Comments and suggestions are welcome!