My presentation will focus putting practice into theory, with a focus on hierarchies of impairment and the application of web accessibility standards in practice in UK higher education. Other presenters include Bill Gaver, Mark Rouncefiled, Simon Holland, Guy Dewsberry, Dean Cowan and Jamie Brooker. The full schedule is available on the Universalising Design website.
Next week I will be presenting research on student experiences of Disability and Social Media to the Association for Learning Technology’s Inclusive Learning Special Interest Group (ILSIG). The ILSIG have a monthly one-hour seminar online (using Blackboard Collaborate 11), this month it falls on Friday 28th June, 1.30pm. This seminar is only available to Association for Learning Technology members, but if such events are of interest to you, it’s worth noting that individual memberships begin at £29. I initially joined ALT as a postgraduate student to receive a discount on the annual conference and access to the Journal of Research in Learning Technology. Research in Learning Technology is now open access online. However, the associations other activities, publications, email discussion lists and events, including its special interest groups are worth supporting and getting involved in, so if you’re working in this area, do consider membership.
Last year, academic publisher Routledge offered 30 days of free access to their education journals. This year, they’re offering similar access with a couple of additional constraints. Firstly, to access the journals you have to register on their site, secondly, articles are only available for 14 days this time around. On the plus side – you can register and begin the 14 days of access at any point up until the 30th June 2012.
Dedicated readers may remember that last year I highlighted a set of papers that I felt would be of interest to education, technology and disability professionals outside of academia. Normally, the cost of accessing closed, subscription journal articles is far too much for people to bear, with articles usually retailing at around £23 ($36). So my advice? Sign up and take two weeks to fill your boots!
To recap: some great (mind expanding) papers for people working in the area of disability, technology, user experience, accessibility, technology enhanced learning and human computer interaction will be available. I still heartily recommend these papers and special issues, I’ve blogged about each as follows:
Disability, Technology and e-Learning edited by Jane Seale… Note: Jane is currently editing a second special collection of papers about digital inclusion and learning for Research in Learning Technology with William Dutton of the Oxford Internet Institute. Peer-review is underway. As Research in Learning Technology is now an open access journal this will be freely available when it is published.
Three papers on disability and the internet including: Disability Discourses for Online Identities by Bowker and Tuffin, Holding the line online: exploring wired relationships for people with disabilities by Seymour and Lupton and Being there by Anderberg and Jonsson.
Next week I’ll be recommending ALL NEW additional research papers that Routledge have published in the field since last year’s Open Access festival. If you have any additional papers you’d like to list, or any other comments, please post, I’d love to hear from you.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.