Participation, it’s a fundamental element of democracy and a concept that is becoming increasingly relevant globally as people are being encouraged to express and defend their rights and the rights of others. But is there a participatory culture that exists for all humans? (Jenkins 2015 pp.4). The plain answer is a resounding no, but if we were to listen to every voice saying no, we would hear a dominant plea from the disabled community (Young 2012).
What’s incredible, is that the previous sentence is extremely discriminatory and doesn’t include a group of human beings as there is a large portion of the disabled community that can neither listen nor speak…went right over your head didn’t it. The intention here isn’t to degrade the reader, it is to demonstrate how important it is to consider the audience when producing content that can be viewed by all (Ellis & Goggin 2009, pp. 80).
In the digital environment, content is created, posted and shared per second and the unfortunate truth is that a lot of this content has “serious usability and accessibility issues” for the disabled population, particularly the deaf and blind (Takagi et al. pp. 177). Henceforth it is important for disabled individuals to have a digital literacy but it is equally important for content creators to have one too as they are creating for a variety of audiences.
Takagi, Asakawa, Fukuda and Maeda look to solve this issue for website creators through their model and software, “Blind Usability Visualisation”. The proposal allows creators to view their websites in 2 modes; the first is a ‘low vision’ mode which indicates inaccessible areas with colouring and the second is a ‘blind’ mode which allows designers to ‘visualise’ their site with text boxes indicating the way a screen reader would interpret the site for a blind individual (Takagi et al. pp. 178-80).
With programs like these, the disabled community are no longer excluded from many online platforms and are now able to participate and interact with online content. Ellis and Goggin articulate this in their text, Disability Media Participation: Opportunities, Obstacles and Politics, whereby, it is the individual that has a physical impairment but it is environment and arrangement that society has created which disables the impaired from participating (Ellis & Goggin pp. 78).
In summation, it is imperative that both the disabled community and online content creators attain a sufficient digital literacy as when this happens, the disabled community will be digitally enabled!
Ellis, K. & Goggin, G. 2009, ‘Disability Media Participation: Opportunities, Obstacles and Politics’, Media International Australia, vol. 154, no.1, pp. 78-88
Jenkins, H., Ito, N. and boyd, d. 2015, Participatory culture in a networked era: a conversation on youth, learning, commerce, and politics, Polity Press, Cambridge, UK and Malden, MA, pp. 1-31.
Takagi, H., Asakawa, C., Fukuda, K. & Maeda, J., 2004, ‘Accessibility Designer: Visualising Usability for the Blind’, Assets ’04 Proceedings of the 6th international ACM SIGACCESS conference on Computers and accessibility, pp. 177-188
Young, S. 2012, ‘We are not here for your inspiration’, Ramp Up Blog, Weblog, ABC, Sydney, viewed 2 September 2017, < http://www.abc.net.au/rampup/articles/2012/07/02/3537035.htm>
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