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Digital Exclusion: Exclusion Zone

By Dan Jellinek

The concept of ‘digital exclusion’ might seem simple enough, but it is actually a highly complex field to define and analyse, and academics and policymakers are divided on the best ways to address it, a City University, London seminar heard last week.

‘Digital inclusion and social exclusion: is there a relationship and what are the policy implications?’ was addressed by Ellen Helsper, lecturer in media and communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Disability Linked To Digital Exclusion And ‘Disengagement’

Levels of home internet access in the UK are directly linked to a wide range of traditional indicators of social exclusion including disability, a digital inclusion seminar at City University, London heard this month.

Ellen Helsper, lecturer in media and communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science, told the seminar that among the disabled population, 59% do not have home access, compared with just 29% of the general population.

The Biggest IT Help Scheme In The World

A government scheme to ensure all school pupils in England have access to computers and the internet at home could have a huge impact on the assistive technology sector.

Earlier this month, the government announced the launch of its ‘Home Access’ scheme to improve technology access for school pupils from lower-income families. Backed by some £300 million, the scheme is expected to provide computers and internet access for home use to around 270,000 families by March 2011.

Severely Disabled Pupils Face Wait For Home Access

School pupils with serious disabilities are facing an indefinite delay, likely to last six months or more, to receive the assistive technology they need to benefit from the government’s new ‘Home Access’ computer scheme, E-Access Bulletin has learned.

The £300 million scheme ( ), managed by education ICT agency Becta ( ), is providing computers to children aged 7-14 from low-income families. Launched this month, it aims to help around 270,000 families by March 2011.

ICT Data Gap ‘Hindering Disabled Business Owners’

A lack of reliable data about the use of ICT by people with disabilities is making it harder for disabled entrepreneurs to succeed, delegates heard at a recent debate hosted by the Information Technologists’ Company, a livery company of the City of London.

The debate was on the motion: “This House believes that it is harder for disabled entrepreneurs to compete in the fast-moving digital age”.

Technology and disabled entrepreneurship – Open for Business?

By Tristan Parker.

Few businesses in the modern world do not make use of digital technology. But how does this affect the half a million disabled people running their own businesses in the UK? This was the question posed earlier this month by the Information Technologists’ Company (ITC) as they debated the motion: “This House believes that it is harder for disabled entrepreneurs to compete in the fast-moving digital age.”

Speaking in support of the motion was Penny Melville-Brown, senior consultant at Disability Dynamics ( ), an organisation offering equality training and consultancy. She argued that as well as poor access to technology, the technology itself was also holding back disabled people in business.

EC Proposes Law To Address ‘Fragmented’ Accessibility Rules

A ‘European Disability Act’ has been proposed by the European Commission to standardise guidelines on web accessibility for disabled people.

In a speech in Brussels earlier this month, Viviane Reding – commissioner for information society and media – said approaches need to be harmonised throughout Europe. “We cannot achieve the single market by leaving aside certain parts of our population”, said Reding. “I am talking about e-accessibility: 15% of our population is disabled, and our rules on accessibility are still fragmented.”

Doing IT Differently: The Road To Achievement

By Katherine Ledger.

A practical guide to help people overcome barriers to using IT and live an independent life, inexpensively, has been published by the Royal Association for Disability Rights (RADAR), the UK’s leading pan-disability organisation. ‘Doing IT Differently: Enabling everyone to use computer and information technology’ is sponsored by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (now the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills), AbilityNet, Microlink and the Information Technologists Company.

Part of a series of self-help publications called Doing Life Differently, the booklet is for everybody at all levels of experience and ages who has problems accessing IT, so it is totally inclusive. It guides the reader through a host of jargon on how to choose and use personal computers, desktops, laptops, mobile phones, smartphones and TVs.

Research – Accessibility: ‘Just The Right Thing To Do’

Article by Peter Abrahams.

In the past year or two it has been possible to detect heightened awareness of the need for accessibility of ICT products and services. This has partly been brought about by court cases such as that filed against in the US, where the National Federation of the Blind claimed that the company’s website was inaccessible and violated disability legislation ( ).

Other factors increasing awareness of accessibility issues include new standards such as the updated Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0; increased pressure from governments to make e-government services accessible to all; and the ongoing ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ( ).

Accessibility versus affordance – Unasking The right Questions

Unasking The right Questions – By Bill Thompson.

Accessibility has always been an issue for information and communications technologies, but for most of the 60 or so years we’ve had stored-program digital computers, it was a secondary consideration.

Getting physical access to early computers like EDSAC and ATLAS involved being in the right room in the right city at the right time, whether or not you were a wheelchair user or had poor vision.

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