Connecting communities through information technology
A new report released by Women with Disabilities Victoria, in conjunction with the Self Advocacy Resource Unit (SARU), reveals a disturbing level of disadvantage faced by women with disabilities in accessing information and communication technologies (ICT). In an age where delivery of information, communication and services are becoming increasingly digital, those without access are experiencing new forms of disadvantage and being further socially and economically excluded.
Report author, Chris Jennings, writes ‘we are fast approaching a time when it is no longer an issue of personal choice — those without access to the internet will be seriously disadvantaged by society’s increasing use and dependence on it’.
‘Computer interfaces are used in many areas of everyday life, from banking machines to ticket dispensers. The internet is increasingly a channel for conveying information about health, transport, education and many government services. Major employers rely on online application systems for recruitment (WHO & the World Bank, 2011)’.
The report draws on research and consultation with women with disabilities, particularly those who are socially isolated. A series of workshops were held by Project Worker, Chris Jennings, to discuss ICT issues with women with disabilities.
The women participating were enthusiastic about the opportunities the project provided to learn about and use information technology. Women who might traditionally might be perceived as less able to use IT demonstrated their skill in navigating computers and different software programs.
The intersection of gender inequality and disability presents a situation of multiple disadvantage. The report notes that women with disabilities too often face the compounding effects of poverty, lack of education and employment, fear of exploitation and gender stereotypes. These multiple layers of disadvantage create barriers to accessing ICT that are extreme. For example, the high incidence of unemployment amongst women with disabilities further denies them exposure to and familiarity with ICT otherwise afforded those in the workforce and at the same time limits the financial resources they need to buy their own computers and technical support.
The report highlights that “When looking at labour force participation, women with disabilities are particularly affected, with a participation rate of 49% - well below the 60% participation rate of males with disabilities and the 77% participation rate of females without disabilities (ABS 2009).”
The Report was funded by the Victorian Women’s Trust. It recommends government, ICT companies, education facilities and disability services have a responsibility to address women’s lack of access to ICT.
This Report is available through the Women with Disabilities Victoria website in three versions – PDF, Word and Easy English:
• 'Your Say, Your Rights': Women with disabilities and Information Communication Technology (ICT) PDF (1MB)
• 'Your Say, Your Rights': Women with disabilities and Information Communication Technology (ICT) Word (2.2MB)
• 'Your Say, Your Rights': Women with disabilities and Information Communication Technology (ICT) Easy English (PDF | 934KB)
The DiVine website is Victoria's first online community for and by people with a disability. Each day you can read a new article written by a DiVine writer. The articles cover a range of interesting topics including arts, lifestyle, assistive technologies, and rights and policies. Visitors to the site can comment on articles, submit story ideas and vote in weekly polls..
If you think social media tools like Facebook fan pages and Twitter accounts are only useful to the marketing efforts of business and big brands, think again - they're also powerful tools for promoting the activities of clubs, community groups and not-for-profit organisations.
When we talk about "social media", what do we mean? One way to think of social media is as a two-way street. Traditional media, like print, radio, and TV, are one-way channels that push out information to people; social media allows those people to communicate back.
Wikipedia defines social media as "the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogue". And isn't that what community is all about? Any group, any club, any organisation exists because of people. And there's never been a better time to allow those people the opportunity to have a dialogue; to express their ideas and opinions via the internet.
A free expo exploring ways technology can be used to benefit the lives of people with a disability was held on Thursday 2 December 2010 at the State Library of Victoria to celebrate International Day of People with Disability The event was hosted by Vicnet on behalf of the ICT Disability Working Group and showcased information for the public and presentations for professionals working in the field.
The theme for the day was set by Ricky Buchanan’s ‘Computers and the Internet set me free!’ DVD which illustrated the importance of assistive technology. Ricky interacts day-to-day with life via her computer as she lives with a disability where she is mostly bedridden. Graeme Innes, Disability and Race Discrimination Commissioner, delivered a key note address which covered the fundamental rights of persons with disabilities, particularly in the context of assistive technology.
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As part of its research on breaking cycles of disadvantage, the Australian Social Inclusion Board is holding public consultations in Perth, Melbourne and Hobart in September 2010. For more information click here.
The Age Technology editor, Gordon Farrer, has highlighted some of the great work Vicnet's Andrew Cunningham does under the Open Road project in his Untangling the Web blog. Andrew is working with Keh Blut to create software tools to help native speakers of S'gaw Karen (a minority language used by the Karen communities of Burma and Thailand) to use computers in their own language.
Read the full article at theage.com.au.
To learn more about the Open Road project, go to http://www.openroad.net.au/.
Vicnet was recently announced as the winner of the Best Diversity Intiative for the inaugural Australia & New Zealand Internet Best Practice Award. This prestigous international award recognises a significant body of work that the State Library of Victoria through Vicnet has done to promote and facilitate use of the web by the many communities that have a limited presence on the web. As part of its activities Vicnet has identified the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities to be of particular concern, with seniors and new and emerging communities recognised as some of those most vulnerable to digital exclusion.
Research has shown that speakers of languages other than English have great difficulty navigating sites when they must first negotiate in another language. This is particularly the case for new users of the internet. Vicnet has been recognised for significantly improving the online experience of CALD communities through:
For more about the AuDA Best Practice Awards, visit http://bestpracticeawards.org.au/.