Category: Forthcoming Events

AbilityNet and Techshare Conferences

With the all-too-immanent arrival of the next academic year, the conference season is fast approaching here in the UK.  Here are two select highlights.

First up is the RNIB’s Techshare conference from the 16 – 18 September 2009 at the ExCeL centre in London. TechShare is a pan-disability assistive technology conference and exhibition.  Speakers make up a virtual who’s who of accessibility, including representatives from JISC TechDis, the W3C, IBM, Google and the RNIB. Unfortunately the early-bird discount has now expired – and there are no other discounted rates (that I could find). The costs for 2 days starts at £365 (not including VAT) with a 1 day ticket coming in at £265 + VAT.  On-site registration costs more.  Pre-conference workshops, accommodation and dinner are extra.  However, the accompanying exhibition is free to attend and is open to the public from 12pm to 5pm on 17 and 18 September.  Do note, the RNIB encourage registration for attending the exhibition.

The date for the second national conference on Accessibility 2.0 has also been set by Accessibility impresarios AbilityNet for the 22nd of September 2009 at Microsoft’s base nr Victoria Station.  If last year’s conference is anything to go by, ‘Accessibility 2.0: A million flowers bloom‘ will be of great interest to those looking to find the cutting-techy-edge of accessible web development, with plenty of food for thought for those of us engaged in Web 2.0 more broadly. This is also a conference with a high precedent for impact. Presentations from last year’s event were freely available in multiple formats after the conference, as were tools and news spinning out in response to presentations.

For those in Disability Studies, academic support and more social disciplines, my tip for a highlight is Lisa Herrod presenting on the use of social networks by Deaf users.  BSL is available for delegates on request.  Prices for the full day are:

  • Full price £195
  • Promotional £170
  • Student £100 (includes VAT)

I’m pleased to say I’ll be attending Accessibility 2.0 for the second year. I hope to see you there.

Accessibility and Hierarchies of Impairment

Following on from yesterday’s MRL lecture, I was fortunate to talk with Prof. Dame Wendy Hall about my research and a short paper I’ve written on ‘Aversive Disablism and the Internet’, borne out of Blogging Against Disablism Day. This paper has been accepted for the 1st Symposium for Humanities and Technology Interface 2009, at the University of Southampton in July. The Symposium looks to explore many of the themes of Web Science advocated by Dame Wendy and other Soton and MIT colleagues, alongside more diverse interdisciplinary projects.

Interface requires that all delegates present either a Lightning Talk of 2 minutes, or a poster presentation.  I’ve pulled on my size 6.5 Lightning Boots, and opted for the former presentation style – and in conversation with Dame Wendy had a chance to rehearse my pitch on aversive disablism and it’s relevance for advancing debate and action on digital inclusion. Professor Hall immediately related this notion back to W3C web standards and asked my view on this – was I stating that (dis)ablism occurred at this level?  This turned the conversation to hierarchies of impairment.

Within accessibility practice (as in many other spheres) research and resources frequently prioritise certain communities and their requirements above others for a nexus of reasons.  In brief terms, hierarchical views of disability and impairment have been researched since the 1970s, but in 2003, Deal published Disabled people’s attitudes toward other impairment groups: a hierarchy of impairments (Disability & Society,18:7,897-910) to explore potential inter-group discrimination amongst disabled people.  Deal’s thorough review of the literature relating hierarchic understandings of impairment by both disabled and non-disabled people is essential reading.  Deal concludes with a call for research in this area, and notes that:

…it is important that, whilst disabled people fight a common cause in seeking equality within society and the removal of discriminatory practices, strategies for attitude change are targeted in a manner that makes them most effective. This may include focusing attention on impairment groups that face the most discrimination in society (i.e. those ranked lowest in the hierarchy of impairments), rather than viewing disabled people as a homogenous group.

Deal’s later PhD research explores the nuances of this hierarchy. His thesis Attitudes of Disabled People Toward Other Disabled People and Impairment Groups from 2006 can be found hosted at the Enham Research pages.

When relating these sociological frameworks to the internet, there is no doubt that, in pro-disabled accessibility discourse, certain groups are privileged above others. Whilst there is increasing sensitivity to this in Computer Science, with developers and researchers working to close the distance, this reasons for this divide are under-theorised within ICT discourse.

Much accessibility research focuses strongly on achieving accessibility for people with mobility, sensory and some text impairments – this is clearly important work, however, it does not represent the totality of necessary accessible practice.  For example, when Brian Kelly and others cited limits to the W3Cs Web Accessibility Initiative in their paper 2007 Accessibility 2.0: People, policies and processes they upheld Joe Clarke’s observation that the WACG development process lacked adequate provision for users with cognitive disabilities and learning difficulties.  Kelly et al also cited Lisa Seeman’s formal objection to WCAG 2.0, requesting that implicit claims that the guidelines did cover cognitive disabilities be omitted from the guidelines’ abstract altogether.  I would argue that this is one example of an occassion where cognitive and learning disablities have been afforded lower status in development discourse history and suffered aversive disablist outcomes as a result.

Clearly, accessible practise contends with the grey areas of potentially conflicting subjectivities. But viewed in light of Deal’s call to arms; adopting theory and strategies emergent from disability studies in the heart of mainstream internet practice would, I feel, create stronger debate pushing foward positive outcomes for all disabled people.  Is this a matter for a ‘Disability Web Science’?

Interactive Technologies and Games Conference: Education, Health and Disability

Last year I was part of the organisational committee for the first Interactive Technologies: Education, Rehabilitation and Disability conference at Nottingham Trent University. The conference now enters its second year, with strengthening ties to the Game City festival and a view to a special edition of Computers and Education in 2010.

The conference aims to bring together academics and practitioners to showcase practice and to show how research ideas and outcomes can be mainstreamed. It will introduce a wider audience to key findings and products from research and will illustrate how practice feeds back into and informs research. Joint academic-practitioner papers are welcomed; the conference will create a forum for two-way communication between the academic and practitioner communities.

This years’ conference, titled ‘Interactive Technologies and Games: Education, Health and Disability’ will be held at NTU in Nottingham on 27th October 2009.  If you’re interested in attending, exhibiting or presenting at the conference, the important dates have been released with the call for papers. This is a Word Document and opens in a new window.

The deadline for submissions is Friday 26th June 2009.  There is a conference fee of £60 (concessions £30). I’ll add details of the Conference website as these are confirmed. For those specifically interested in the Disability Strand, topics to be covered (but not limited to) include:

  • Approaches to making Virtual Environments (VE), computer and video games accessible by all
  • Assistive technologies for people with disabilities and elderly people
  • Practical applications of VE and serious games for the education of people with disabilities and elderly people (in e.g. work preparation, travel training)
  • Location based services for navigation and reconnection of people with disabilities
  • Art and music rehabilitation in 3D multisensory environments
  • The engagement potential of serious games for young people at risk of social exclusion (e.g., offenders, those with learning disabilities)
  • Design for All
  • Including people with disabilities in the design of serious games, assistive technologies and VE.

Net Generation: Critical and International Perspectives

On Monday 11th of May 2009, the Open University will broadcast their ‘Net Generation: A critical and international perspective’ mini conference online. This event is part of the OU’s Net Generation Encountering eLearning at University project, and has particular relevance for those researching the use of new technologies in higher education.

Registration for the event is now closed, so this web cast represents a welcome entry to the day’s proceedings. If you are interested in ‘attending’ any sessions or finding out more, you can view the web cast and related information via:

The web cast will go live between 10.00 am – 4.30 pm in the UK (9.00am – 3.30pm GMT).

Blogging Against Disablism

This Friday (1st May 2009) will be Blogging Against Disablism Day. This is a day where all around the world, disabled and non-disabled people will blog about their experiences, observations and thoughts about disability discrimination. This is a great event hosted by Diary of A Goldfish. If you’d like to participate, visit the Blogging Against Disablism Day pages at Diary of a Goldfish and register your interest. Everyone is welcome. Then write a post on the subject of disability discrimination, disablism or ableism and and publish it on May 1st – or as close as you are able. In previous years bloggers have posted on all sorts of subjects, Goldfish has more details if you have questions. Multimmedia is also welcome. Be sure to go back to DoaG and tell her the URL of your published post so spectators and participants can share your thoughts.

Social Networks and Passion

Tomorrow (Friday 20th March 2009) Bernd Ploderer will be presenting his research at the University of Nottingham’s Mixed Reality Lab.  Bernd is a visting PhD student from the Interaction Design Group and Department of Information Systems at the University of Melbourne, where I met him last August.  His research focuses on computer supported cooperative work (CSCW)  especially in the appropriation of social network sites to pursue extreme passions such as bodybuilding.

The seminar runs from 12 noon at the MRL and will be of interest to anyone researching social networks, risk, ties, ethnography and obsession.

Bill Gaver Seminar at MRL

This is a notice for a forthcoming event here at Nottingham University. On Monday 26th of January Bill Gaver, from Goldsmiths, University of London will be presenting his research as part of the Mixed Reality Lab visiting researcher lecture programme. Dr Gaver is Professor of Design and leader of the Interaction Research Studio at Goldsmiths, University of London and his presentation will focus on the dynamics of ageing. This researchshould be of particular interest to those interested in embodiment online.

The Impossible Prison

At the end of October I went to the opening of the Impossible Prison, an exhibition curated by Alex Farquharson,  Director of Nottingham Contemporary. The exhibition is located within the Galleries of Justice Police Station, Nottingham, an atmospheric and provocative space in its own right.

16 international artists become ‘inmates’ in the Impossible Prison, inspired by Discipline and Punish, by Michel Foucault. The exhibition explores power, control and surveillance, increasingly a part of all our lives. The exhibition is free and runs until the 14th of December and comes highly recommended!

Those of you who scrutinise this blog regularly may recall a short piece I wrote about Mona Hatoum’s “Wheelchair” sculpture, a photo of which was used for the front cover of Tom Shakespeare’s book “Disability Rights and Wrongs”.  If you are interested in seeing Hatoum’s work first hand the Impossible Prison is a must. Her 1993 piece “Incommunicado” is exhibited in one of the Impossible Prison’s claustrophobic cells.  As with “Wheelchair” – this work attends to the institutional furniture of the hospital and home. To paraphrase the Tate (where an image of the sculpture can also be viewed):

“Incommunicado” is a bare steel sculpture made of an infant’s cot. The springs have been replaced by tautly stretched, fine cheese wire. The cold, hard, metal form of the cot has been honed down to its most bare and chilling structure. The potentially lethal wires anticipate acute pain. “Incommunicado” is a place where speech is no longer possible, a reminder of an infant’s inability to articulate its needs by any means other than a scream. It is also a metaphor for the plight of many political prisoners who are incarcerated and tortured in places where their voices cannot be heard. Here a relationship of ‘parent’ state to citizen-‘child’ is presented as cruel and abusive rather than warm and loving, murderous rather than nurturing.

I found this work and many others within the Impossible Prison very powerful. And, given the current turmoil surrounding the forthcoming extradition of Gary McKinnon to the United States, this exhibition will have strong resonance for some within Disability Studies.

A series of free Talks and Seminars have also been organised in conjunction with the exhibition.

  • Today (Monday 24th November 6 – 8 pm) Ken Starkey delivers the third talk in the series organised by Nottingham Contemporary – ‘Stranger in a Strange Land: Michel Foucault in the Business School’.
  • On Monday 3rd December, 6pm – 8pm, Eyal Weizman will talk about ‘The Architecture of Occupation in Israel.Palistine’.  Both talks will be given at Biocity, Nottingham.
  • Finally, Erwin James will talk about ‘Prison Today’ on Monday 8th of December at the Galleries of Justice themselves.

To book a place and to find out more about these events go to:

ALT-C Timetable announced

The Association for Learning Technology has just released its draft timetable for speakers for this year’s conference at My paper has been listed in a 4 paper session early on Wednesday 10th September, covered by the Access or Exclusion theme, subtitled Disabilities / Community Access.  This is one of ten (yes, ten!) parallel sessions.

Short papers to be presented in this session:

  • Nothing about me, without me: The use of participatory research methods to give voice to disabled learners experiences of e-learning.
  • Hear my voice: Disabled E-Learners Narratives of Exclusion and Inclusion
  • Beyond access: social experiences of disability online, in and around higher education.
  • Values and identity in community IT centres

A second notable session cited under Access or Exclusion: Flexibility and Access / Disabilities runs from 4pm on the same afternoon, featuring two papers:

  • Flexibility and Access – implications of blended learning for higher education
  • How the Web Continues to Fail People with Disabilities

These look like interesting agendas, with some overlaps – but I’ll also be interested to see how these themes are conceptualised in the wider terms of the conference.  Will this be seen as a mainstream user experience consideration for education? Or a minority interest? In a conference considering the potential and actual divisive nature of ICTs, I’m hoping for the former.

Graduate School Careers Event

The University of Nottingham’s Graduate School publicity machine is lurching into action regarding forthcoming careers events.  As previously noted here, I’ll be presenting: ‘Going Solo – Starting out as a Freelance Researcher’ on Thursday 15th of May.  For more details you can view the event flyer here: Graduate School Career Events.  If you are a University of Nottingham post graduate student you can now register to attend via the Graduate School’s web pages at: