The world of media and communication

May 13, 2013

Is Australia lagging behind in digital disability?

Filed under: Uncategorized — by ash91blog @ 12:56 pm

Business on a laptop

Blog Post 10: Disability on the Internet

The lecture in week 10 discussed the emergence of digital disability in modern technologies. In the article ‘The business of digital disability’ by Newell and Goggin (2007) it is evident information technology and communication technologies have become powerful themes in contemporary society (Newell, C., Goggin, G 2007). According to Newell et al 2007, ‘IT and digital networks form the nervous system of the economy and society at large’ (Newell, C., Goggin, G 2007 p 131).

In society, individuals are increasingly using smart phones, tablets and switching to digital TV, in which these applications are central to disability in how it is conceived and experienced in new and dynamic ways (Newell, C., Goggin, G 2007). There are a wide range of technologies that are available to persons’ with disabilities, however what happens when products do not cater for individual needs? Do they simply miss out?

In the seminar it was mentioned Australia has proven that change is ‘frustratingly slow’ (Newell, C et al 2007 p161) in which vision impaired individuals do not have equal accessibility to digital television programs like other countries; thus they miss out. To provide a mental image of the inequality imagine you are watching neighbours at 6.30pm with your family. They are all laughing loudly to something that Toadie said to Sonia. You are sitting there quietly as you are unable to see what happened. This social exclusion in Australia is one that is recognized and addressed by many other countries.

This concept is explored in the article ‘Australia still a prison for vision impaired TV Viewers’ by Scott Nixon (2013) which was a key article discussed in the seminar. In the UK the same episode of neighbours is accompanied with audio description, which is aired up to three times in the same day. This example indicates there is no social exclusion for the vision impaired, as they are able to hear the background to a scene creating a greater user experience.

New Zealand and the United States have followed a similar lead with audio description capabilities, in which Nixon (2013) suggests these countries “produce more audio visual television in a week than Australia has had in our history” (Nixon, S 2013). This presents social exclusion is a key concern in modern technologies within Australia, and needs to be addressed by the Government as a main priority.

Another example of the new digital network is the emergence of smart phones which are rapidly becoming the central computing and communication device in society. Smart phone emerging capabilities are fuelling in a rise in the use of mobile phones as input devices, which primarily gives smart phones the potential to be the default physical interface for ubquitious computing applications (Ballagas, R; Borchers, J; Rohs, M; Sheridan, J. 2006).

Apple currently provides vision impaired users options for voice recognition to write messages or emails; however, they key pad makes it hard for users to type messages. Nokia is a leading example that has the unique keypad for vision impaired, however Apple does not cater this need.

The above examples indicated the “introduction of new technologies sees people with disabilities overlooked, omitted, neglected or not considered” (Newell, C et al 2012 p160), which needs to be considered by the Australian Government to create a standardized approach in all technologies that is available throughout the world.

References

Ballagas, R.; Borchers, J.; Rohs, M.; Sheridan, J.G 2006, ‘IEEE Pervasive Computing’, The smartphone: A ubiquitous input device, vol. 5, no.1, pp 70-77

Newell, C., Goggin, G 2007, ‘The business of digital disability’ The information society: An international journal, vol 23, no 3 pp 159- 168

Nixon, S 2013, ‘ Australia still a prison for vision impaired TV viewers’ accessed 22/5/13,

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