With one in five Australians, or 4.2 million people, living with a disability (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2013) it is inevitable that media must become more accessible. However, despite this, it has not, leaving the disabled community very little access to the benefitting factors of technology. Without a shift to user focused design and a greater understanding of requirements, those with disabilities will never fully incorporate into their lives the capabilities of the internet.
Currently, those living with a disability are being made to adapt to the requirements of technology, which very often cannot be done. Instead, focus should be on adapting technology to individual disabilities, ensuring all people have opportunity to complete daily functions as the world turns digital. This process begins with research, and considering the user at every stage of the design process. Sites such as Ramp Up by the ABC were created so that people with a disability could have a voice in media outcomes, however individual efforts like this only succeed when they are supported by efforts of a similar nature (Ellis & Goggin 2015). This situation begs the question, are governments and major technology groups doing enough to ensure an increased understanding in the way in which people with disabilities need technology?
One way to bridge this understanding gap is to increase the prominence of people with disabilities in mainstream media. Shows such as The Dreamhouse on the ABC aid to breakdown common stereotypes regarding living with a disability, and illustrate that the commanding heights of media industries and practices have proven difficult to obtain for people with disabilities (Ellis & Goggin 2015). However true participation requires many qualities; ‘the ability to understand a social situation well enough to engage, connections with others who help build an audience and enough social status to speak with consequence’ (Jenkins 2015, pp. 22). Expressing a movement towards a more participatory culture allows us to recognise the current difficulties of groups and initiate greater cultural circulation (Jenkins 2015).
People with disabilities currently have the second lowest internet use for any priority group, at 44.4% (Australian Digital Inclusion Index). Without a shift to adaptive technologies, the digital divide will extend as people with disabilities will be unable to physically utilise technology and complete basic internet functions which are required for living independent lives (Cullen 2001). Technology has become a platform where the sharing of data and communication leads to an increased sense of participation (Cullen 2001). By excluding people with disabilities from this, we are excluding them from what has become the digital community of the world.
Cullen, R. 2001, Addressing the Digital Divide, 8th edn, Educational Resources Information Centre, Boston.
Ellis, K. & Goggin, G. 2015, ‘Disability media participation: Opportunities, obstacles and politics’, Media International Australia, vol. 154, no. 5, pp. 78-88.
Jenkins, H. 2015, ‘Defining Participatory Culture’, in N. Ito (ed.), Participatory culture in a networked era: A conversation on youth, learning, commerce and politics, Polity Press, Cambridge, pp. 1-31.
Daniels, C. 2013, Exercising with Limited Mobility, Pinterest, viewed 1 September 2017, <https://au.pinterest.com/pin/515380751085902304/ >.
Maahs, F. 2015, Putting technology to work for people with disabilities, ComCast Voices, viewed 1 September 2017, <http://corporate.comcast.com/comcast-voices/putting-technology-to-work-for-people-with-disabilities >.
The Dreamhouse. 2014, The Dreamhouse, Artemis, viewed 1 September 2017, <http://www.artemisfilms.com/_blog/Artemis_News/post/the-dreamhouse-coming-to-abc-august-7th/ >.