Tagged: user experience

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! 

#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.

#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.