Tag Archives: Access to Technology

Real Digital Inclusion – A challenge for transparency advocates

The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect. Tim Berners-Lee W3C.

Some fundamental first principles:

1) The idea of digital inclusion is more expansive than we sometimes imagine; in fact, digital inclusion encompasses the right to appropriate access to the content made available through technology.   The distinction between availability and accessibility is at the core of the right of people with disabilities to receive, manipulate and share content.

2) Because the Web can either remove or erect barriers to communication and interaction the potential of today’s technology is radically and exponentially changed. Our thinking must do the same.

3) What’s good for people with physical and mental challenges will often enhance the lives of a broader constituency including seniors, people who live in remote or developing areas or who speak and read other than mainstream languages.

Because most of my waking hours are devoted to thinking about access to information by and about the government, the lens through which I see the world focuses on the inclusion of all as active participants in this democratic society. My mantra echoes the words of President Woodrow Wilson who reminded us that “government ought to be all outside and no inside.”

Thus it seems to me that Sunshine Week, March 15-21, 2015, presents a ready opportunity to connect the dots between digital inclusion and efforts to ensure the people’s right to know. Sunshine Week is a concerted effort by journalists and other open government advocates to shine light on the people’s right to know. (http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/blog/mary-treacy/thoughts-sunshine-week-2015-wwjmd) The problem: the unique needs of people with disabilities, and the potential of evolving technology to assure access, has remained in the shadows of the inclusion narrative. It’s time to connect the dots – to feature assistive technology as a key feature of the Sunshine Week agenda.

Clearly, advocates for open government must be in the front lines in the drive to expand the concept of digital inclusion to encompass the needs and potential of people with mental and physical challenges. Information by and about the government belongs to all the people; it is the responsibility of government at every level to embrace the potential of technology to remove barriers to access.

Linking the ideas and tools of assistive technology and open government is a poignant example of the challenge we face to create opportunities and incentives for new partnerships. In an era of warp-speed technological – and political – change, a world in which the web is pervasive, the stakes for users and government alike are great. The opportunities to learn and engage accrue to all concerned.

Last weekend I was able to participate in a workshop on assistive technology sponsored by Open Twin Cities and Hennepin County. There local and state accessibility experts described their accomplishments and hopes while coders shared ideas and skills to create apps that will assist people with differing abilities to navigate the enormous resources of the web. The energy in the group of nearly 50 enthusiastic coders engaged in a common cause was palpable.

Next step is for those who choose to drink more deeply of the Pierean stream to delve more deeply into the resources that Web access promises. At the risk of overload, here are some useful resources that can pave the way for those who want to further explore the how-to’s and why’s of web accessibility.

WAI – The Web Accessibility Initiative (http://www.w3.org/WAI/)

brings together individuals and organizations from around the world to develop strategies, guidelines, and resources. WAI engages representatives from industry, disability organizations, education, government, and research. The virtual door is open to all.

First Monday (www.FirstMonday.org) Started in 1996 this is one of the first openly accessible, peer–reviewed journals on the Internet, solely devoted to the Internet. First Monday is global in scope, indexed in a host of readily accessible reference sources.

Computers in Libraries (http://www.infotoday.com/cil2014/) The 30th Computers in Libraries conference is scheduled for Washington DC, April 2015. See also the journal of the same name. (http://infotoday.stores.yahoo.net/cominlibmags.html)

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Department of Economic and Social Affairs © United Nations 2008 -2015 (http://www.un.org/disabilities/convention/conventionfull.shtml)

When you’re finished changing, you’re finished!  Benjamin Franklin.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Technology Access Grows for Some, Not All, Minneapolitans

Do you want to apply for retirement benefits?  Check your bank balance?  Talk back to the TV?  Look for a job?  Help your kid with her homework?  Keep up with the news?

Better be able to afford and, more important, know how to use technology – not just an old-fashioned computer but a range of technology tools including smartphones, the expanding social media options, email, Internet and whatever comes next.

Again this year, the City of Minneapolis set forth to survey the state of community technology.  Some 3211 residents responded to the survey.  The report is out (online, of course) and a series of community meetings is in process.

The biggest change since the 2012 survey is the expansion of mobile access.  Internet enabled mobile phones is higher in 2013, even among those households less likely to own a computer.  An interesting note is the fact that, of adults over the age of 45, women were much more likely than men to have cellphones with the ability to access the Internet.

A telling fact is that, while 90% of white households have computers, only 65% of Black/African American respondents have Internet access at home. Among the respondents with children in their household who reported their race on the survey, whites are far more likely to have access at home (95%) compared to people of color (73%).

The survey results are reported in geographic terms.  Importance was ranked lowest among residents in Camden and Phillips and respondents who had lived in Minneapolis for fewer than six years were more likely to view having a computer and Internet access in their home as essential.

The full survey report includes much more information about access, attitudes and geographic distribution of technology.  Maps depicting neighborhood access patterns are available here.

Future meetings about the survey are set for Tuesday, May 21, 5:30-7:00 p.m., DevJam Studios; Thursday, June 13, a morning session 7:30-9:00 a.m. at Eastside Food Coop, 2551 Central Avenue NE, and Wednesday, June 19, 6:00-7:30 p.m. at Sabathani Community Center, 310 East 38th Street.