Digital Landscapes: Inclusive Potential versus Exclusive Practice

By Sue Watling.

Published by The Diversity Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The advantage of digital data is its flexibility, which ensures it can be available in multiple formats and customised to suit individual preference. This makes it a powerful tool for establishing equity of access to digital landscapes in particular for users of assistive technology. The expression ‘Digital Divide’ originally referred to access to technology and, while this remains relevant, it now also refers to the quality of that access. Possession of the hardware alone cannot guarantee equity of participation. For users of assistive technologies in particular, all the prerequisites for access can be in place but if the digital data has not been designed with the needs of their technology in mind, then their access will continue to be denied. To work effectively within digital landscapes, and transform the curriculum for the needs for future learners both on and off campus, requires an understanding of inclusive digital practice so as to minimise barriers to access. These requirements should be neither under-estimated nor their presence assumed. As the use of digital landscapes for educational purposes increases, care must be taken not to widen the divide between inclusive and exclusive digital practice. This paper suggests that priority should be given to ensuring accessible digital content within higher education and that this requires individual responsibility supported by a whole institution approach; both of which must recognise the value of digital inclusion.

Keywords: Digital Inclusion, Digital Exclusion, Higher Education, Virtual Learning Environment, eLearning

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 11, Issue 5, pp.109-116. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 731.684KB).

Sue Watling

Learning and Teaching Coordinator, Centre for Educational Research and Development, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, Lincolnshire, UK

In the role of Learning and Teaching Co-ordinator, I support staff in the use of Blackboard and the development of online learning content while teaching on issues around social and digital exclusion. Past projects have included the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Scheme (UROS) and ‘Getting Started’ with the ‘Snapshot’ learning development website. My current PhD research investigates digital exclusion through the lens of the social model of disability. Many users of assistive computer technology, in particular those with vision impairment, continue to face barriers to accessing digital information. In spite of the inherent flexibility of digital data to be customised to suit individual preference, exclusive design practices limit this potential. As a result, from Gutenberg to Google, access to communication and information continues to be unnecessarily denied. My qualifications include a PG Cert in Media Production, MA in Gender Studies, and MA in Open and Distance Education. I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA), member of the Association for Learning Development in Higher Education (ALDinHE) and hold Certified Membership of the Association for Learning Technology (CMALT).

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