I’m so glad to have been invited to contibute to the session on Internet Accessibility Empowering Persons With Disabilities at this year’s Internet Governance Forum Meeting in Berlin (Wednesday 27th November, 1500-1650 CET in Room IV of the Estrel Congress Center, Sonnenallee 225, 12057 Berlin).
Hopefully, the introductory pieces by all of the speakers will be short, so that we can have a lively discussion. I am speaking last, so previous speakers will probably have made all of the important points! However, for those unable to attend, this is what I am hoping to say:
I would like to use this opportunity to make four brief points:
First, unless universal inclusion and accessibility are built into all new digital technologies from the original design stage to end user, they will further increase inequality. The more and more advanced technologies become, the further they benefit those who can afford and are able to use them, rather than the most marginalised and poorest, especially those with disabilities
Second, it is crucial that we change the design approach mindset so that inclusion becomes of paramount importance for the internet and the use of digital technologies. This can be done in many ways, but I have always been impressed by the power of the market, and the role that procurement can play, especially by governments and large corporations.
Third, we can all get better at what we do! I continually get cross with myself that I do not always insert alternative text for all of the images I post on my digital platforms, and in the slide decks that I share of my talks. It is not good enough, but it takes longer to do, and with a tight schedule I usually forget. I need to do better; we all do.
Finally, and to end on a more optimistic note, of course the design of new digital technologies can indeed be used by people with disabilities to transform their lives. There are always new things being developed – my latest exciting discovery is OptiKey . However, we need to do much more to help change developers’ attitudes – and indeed those of the wider tech community. Smart city technology for example should be being used much more to help the blind and visually impaired. We must all do more – together with those with disabilities, and not just “for them”.
For more about our work on inclusion and disability, see our small site at Disabilities and ICT4D.