It is commonly accepted, and supported by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), that people with disabilities should be supported to be full citizens and have access to all aspects and parts of their community – such as education, employment, housing, leisure, mobility, clinical care etc.
The technological revolution has increased the opportunities for this to take place but is commonly seen as ‘added value’. If technology (including specialist and mainstream technology, such as Information Communication Technologies and Assistive Technologies (ICT-AT)) can allow someone to communicate more easily, get around more easily, love more independently, learn more effectively, gain employment, have a family, then it is our right to make this possible.
However, we could be led to believe that this is an expensive option and cannot be afforded during a recession. Two responses to this: firstly if they use technological solutions in this way it should be seen as an investment, with evidence increasingly showing that it is in fact a cheaper option than the more pastoral or medical model of disability. Secondly, rights should not be compromised: they are aspirational and any opportunity to enrich or enhance someone’s life by finding new ways for them to exercise their rights should be taken.
However, some people take to the new technologies quicker than others for a variety of reasons. The gap between those that are able to use these technologies and those who cannot or do not is known as ‘the digital divide’. One barrier can be the technology itself, which changes more quickly than people’s ability to keep up. It might also be that access to the technology can be difficult. What is true is that both of the above can be used as excuses for not using technology based solutions to enhance quality of life and reduce dependency.
It is vital that all different stakeholders start working together – from users, carers, providers and families to commissioners, regulators, manufacturers, retailers and policy-makers. Entelis provides an important vehicle for these stakeholders to collaborate, now and in the future, to reduce the digital divide.
By Steve Barnard, Entelis Partner HFT