Technology as an Inclusive Concept

Continued advances in technology have generated increased opportunities for disparate peoples to communicate asynchronously across the world. Information and Communication Technology (ICT), which originated on a mass scale with the invention of the printing press, has evolved into a world of devices, broadband connections, and a variety of supporting applications.  Increased access to these technologies has enabled one to have the chance to Printing Presscommunicate outside of their community and to explore the world via the Internet.  It has granted people the option of being whoever they want to be online whether that pertains to their gender, age, physical appearance, personality, disability, or any other descriptor.  And although there has been improved ease of access to own and operate a variety of technologies, there are a number of instances where the method used in development of a technology does not fit the divergent needs of persons attempting to utilize it.  Alan Foley and Beth A.  Ferri identified in Technology for People, Not Disabilities: Ensuring Access and Inclusion that “technology is very much a part of the larger social context, such normative assumptions on how our bodies are supposed to operate are deeply embedded in all aspects of technology”.

In order for technologies to be developed in ways that open up how it can be accessed, the develop process will need to undergo a paradigm shift in thinking regarding accessibility and innovation.  It will require people to pose questions around accessibility versus perpetuating a culture that finds it acceptable to retrofit products meet distinct needs.  The shift will first implore that people let go of what is considered “normal” as it relates to technology usage.  The concepts of normality continue to bring forth ideas around how bodies and people should function instead of actively pursuing inclusive concepts around the ways in which dissimilar bodies and persons actually do operate.

Metro Transportation Library and Archive, on Flickr

The first step in inclusion would be to acknowledge that it should be an integral part of the initial product development design process.  The second would be to understand that, although advancement in technology has made the world smaller, the usage of technology can isolate people and create unique forms of social exclusion.  To combat this, developers and designers should explore user interface options that applying a wider range of user experience design concepts.  By employing this methodology, it would further support inclusion in a well-rounded fashion that did not require retrofitting later.  It would have the power to alter the perpetuation of “normal” as it applies to bodily functionality.    In widening the understanding around the variety of user needs that exist, there are a number of opportunities to redefine the normative technological experience and usher in an innovative and inclusive workflow model.

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