At this moment still too many people worldwide are disabled by inaccessible technology, or do not have access to assistive technology (AT) based solutions that could help them to participate on an equal footing in modern society. The same holds true for older adults that, adequately supported and trained, could benefit if they wish from appropriate technology to remain independent, socially connected and with a good quality of life in their homes and communities. According to the authors of the recently published white paper “Digital Inclusion” yet most of the time it just doesn’t happen because technologies do not match their needs, digital skills and desires or because care organisations do not want or are unable to change their service delivery models.
The rapid rate of innovation in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) brings the risk that some groups remain, often unwillingly, behind in the adoption of new technologies. A digital divide occurs when structural factors create barriers leading to unequal opportunities. It is important to analyse the causes and to see what can be done to bridge the divide and to reach full digital inclusion.
Bridging the divide is important in order to ensure individuals can lead more fulfilled lives based on freedom and choice. It is equally important for society. Access to employment, for example, will reduce poverty and dependency from state grants and benefits, where these are available. It will help to grow the local and national economy, while reducing, in many cases, the burden of informal care and the costs of formal care. Access to education is an important factor for personal development and access to more qualified work. Access to the Internet and social media is important for social, political and cultural inclusion. But most of all, equal access to opportunities is a human right that should be guaranteed by society.
The white paper is written by members of the ENTELIS network, a network supported by AAATE and open to all AAATE members. The document looks forward and challenges organisations to identify strategies to tackle the digital divide. In the first section, it analyses trends and policy objectives as defined by the international community in different areas relevant to the digital divide, such as education, employment, health and social care, (social) media, etc.
“Where policy areas can be distinguished one from another, human lives are unique”, according to Evert-Jan Hoogerwerf, who led the writing effort. “It is the same person that wakes up in the morning, goes to school or to work, uses services, uses technology and accesses media. Human life goals might differ from one individual to another, but very likely “having choice”, “feeling knowledgeable”, “feeling safe”, “being independent”, “being respected” and “dignity” are high priorities for all and in all areas of life. Technology can either support people reaching these goals, or be a barrier. The challenge of modern society is to make sure that technology leads to a better quality of life.”
In the second section, the white paper explores the opportunities technology offers in various areas of life but also assess the major barriers to access and effective use of technology by persons with disabilities. The third and last section is about goals and strategies to reach these goals. The paper defines long term goals in different areas of intervention and elaborates on a roadmap to reach these goals.
The paper can be downloaded from http://www.entelis.net/en/node/353
DIGITAL INCLUSION. A WHITE PAPER
© ENTELIS consortium, 2016
Main author: Evert-Jan Hoogerwerf (AIAS Bologna onlus)
Collaborating authors: Lorenzo Desideri (AIAS Bologna onlus), Anne Kärki (Satakunta University of Applied Science), Andreas Koth (EVBB), Katerina Mavrou (European University Cyprus), Maria Meletiou-Mavrotheris (European University Cyprus), Klaus Miesenberger (University of Linz), Marcia J. Scherer (Matching Person and Technology Institute), Andrea Solander-Gross (EVBB), Sarah Weston (Hft).
Comments received from: Peter Cudd (AAATE), Sonia Staskowiak (EASPD), Ivan Traina (University of Bologna).
The White Paper was produced in the framework of the ENTELIS project funded by the European Commission under the Lifelong learning programme. The paper reflects the views of the authors only and the European Commission is not responsible neither for the content, nor for any use that might be made of the content.