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Digital Government ‘Must Not Increase Exclusion’

Digitisation of government services must not take place at the expense of increased exclusion of people with disabilities, a leading national policy adviser has told E-Access Bulletin.

Felicity Shaw is senior policy advisor for Race Online 2012, a campaign headed by the UK’s Digital Champion Martha Lane Fox to bring online the nine million people in the country who have never used the internet ( http://raceonline2012.org ).

“We’re making recommendations that government services should be digital by default, but part of that is making sure that nobody is excluded by that process. Making services digital is about making them better, more convenient and easier, not about leaving people behind who are excluded,” Shaw said.

Some of the more difficult and important work for Race Online 2012 will be helping people with a range of access issues to use the internet for the first time. “What’s harder to tackle is people who may have multiple barriers to getting online, particularly disabled people who might have accessibility issues which make it harder or more expensive for them to access equipment.

“What we don’t want is to have a campaign and promote just some of the elements that go with that, which ultimately increases exclusion for people who can’t get online” said Shaw.

Part of Race Online 2012’s work includes a ‘People’s Taskforce’ ( http://bit.ly/glTN2w ), featuring people from a variety of backgrounds who have been helped to go online, and are now helping others to use the internet. Members of the taskforce are helping to provide the campaign with ideas and information about accessibility, including Heather Lyons – who is visually impaired and campaigning for more affordable assistive technology – and Alan Thomas – who was diagnosed with ataxia, and now uses the internet to share information about his support website, livingwithataxia.org .

Shaw was among speaker’s at last week’s Future Democracy ’10, Headstar’s annual conference on the use of the internet and other new technologies to boost all parts of the democratic process ( http://www.headstar-events.com/fdem10 ).

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