Tagged: digital rights

Digital Election Special

Yesterday Alex Watson (@Sifter) published Use the Internet to Decide How to Vote on bit-tech. The article identifies various resources, from checking your voter status at 192.com to researching your current MP at They Work For You.

With less than 24 hours till polling, this post is a little late, but I’d like to highlight a couple of excellent resources the have emerging from digital accessibility communities via Twitter.

First up, consider the excellent work by Elena Newly (via Twitter @AutismWales) who has worked to provide Easy-Read summaries of all the political Parties’ manifestos. These Easy-Read documents are designed for learning disabled adults and those involved with the LD community. She has also created an Easy-Read Summary of the second TV Leaders’ Debate.

Secondly, consider the election resources available from the British Sign Language Broadcasting Trust . This has included a schedule of signed programmes and two key Election broadcasts available online:

The first election special deals with the voting process.

The second election special ‘Your Country Needs You’ focuses on making an informed decision.

If you know of other digital resources I’ve missed, please add a comment below.

Digital Rights and Wrongs

With the European Elections fast approaching, the Open Rights Group have asked UK candidates what they think about key digital rights issues such as online privacy, surveillance state, open internet and copyright reform.  To view responses, visit the Open Rights Group EU Election pages.

The Open Rights Group is a grassroots technology organisation which exists to protect civil liberties wherever they are threatened by the poor implementation and regulation of digital technology.  This is an important area for advocacy and got me thinking. When we consider digital rights – particularly Internet access as a human right – government action to ensure equitable internet access and close digital divides appears straightforward.  However, the intersection between the internet and disabled people as users is not the sum, total interface between digital infrastructure and disability.

Last year at the biennial Disability Studies Association conference in Lancaster (UK), Australian academic Dr Helen Meekosha presented the keynote Contextualizing disability: developing southern/global theory. This paper advocated global perspectives on disability, challenging gaps in western/northern disability discourse.   Meekosha observes that global levels of disability are not a given, they are dependent on factors such as war, disaster, economics and climate change.  In view of this, the decisions made by elected governments on defence, trade, international aid and the environment have repercussions for levels of disability around the world.  I would argue that digital legislation is bound into this policy ecology.  For example, in environmental terms… (I’m thinking of Nicolas Carr’s assertion that the average Second Life avatar consumes as much energy as the average Brazillian and the revelations that the CO2 emissions of the ICT industry outstrip aviation) …green computing could be concieved as a human rights and disability issue.

However, Meekosha identifies more direct causal effects relating technology and disability, specifically through outsourcing to ‘eSweatshops’.  She also observes:

Disability scholars rarely venture into this territory – leaving these issues to scholars in feminism and international development.

Citing the excellent article ‘A New Front in the Sweatshop Wars?‘ by Farrell & Olsen, (2001) Meekosha highlights the emergence of eSweatshops, dedicated to data processing, as a physically damaging, disabling environments.  Farrell and Olsen scope high-profile academic digitisation projects that have been sub-contracted to countries such as Barbados, India, Mexico and Cambodia whilst observing the lack of any regulation.  In one instance they describe disabled people targeted for employment by a Harvard sub-contractor.  This is a complex area of competing interests, deftly handled by Farrell and Olsen. More recent literature from organisations such as Cafod focuses on manufacturing sweatshops, for ICTs and software. It’s a reminder that digital resources, tools and structures can infringe rights and create impairment, outside traditional views of inaccessible systems and accessibility discourse.