Talking digital inclusion this Global Accessibility Awareness Day
Global Accessibility Awareness Day, 18 May, is focused on digital access and inclusion for the more than one billion people across the world who live with disability. The purpose of Global Accessibility Awareness Day is to get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital access and inclusion.
This day is important for Queenslanders with disability as we know that being part of the digital economy and digital world is critical to accessing information and essential services. The Queensland Government has recently announced its digital economy strategy and action plan. Our Thriving Digital Future: Queensland’s Digital Economy Strategy and the three-year Our Thriving Digital Future: 2023-26 Action Plan aims to grow Queensland’s digital economy, improve digital connectivity, and promote access, affordability and ability so everyone can enjoy the economic and social benefits of a digitally-enabled economy.
To celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Queenslanders with Disability Network (QDN) CEO Michelle Moss talks about all things digital inclusion and explains how QDN’s Digital Inclusion program is bridging the digital divide and reducing barriers to people with disability getting online.
What are some of the main challenges that people with disability face when it comes to accessibility and inclusion, particularly digital inclusion?
Michelle explains that people with disability can face many challenges in terms of accessibility and inclusion, including physical, technological, and visual and auditory barriers, and limited digital literacy.
“Accessibility and inclusion is different for everyone,” explains Michelle.
“We know devices that are contemporary and fit for purpose, affordable data and ability, skills and knowledge is critical to access and inclusion.”
“For example, people with visual or hearing impairments encounter barriers when content is not available in alternative formats, which can make accessing services and information really challenging for a lot of people.
“Some people with physical disability have difficulties accessing physical spaces, and we know from feedback that a lot of the time websites, applications, and other digital platforms are not designed with accessibility in mind.”
Michelle also points out that some people with disability may have limited experience in using digital technologies.
“Many people with disability in our communities have not had the opportunity to use devices and learn to navigate the online world,” says Michelle.
“People with disability are more likely to experience barriers when attempting to get online, but being online is no longer a ‘nice to have’.”
“It is vital people with disability can stay connected with their support network, access essential services, and find up-to-date information.”
How is QDN improving digital accessibility and inclusion?
The Digital Inclusion project is one of the ways QDN is supporting people with disability to get online and stay connected.
QDN’s Digital Inclusion team is delivering in-person workshops across Brisbane and Gympie, and online workshops and masterclasses to people with disability across Queensland. As part of the project, QDN and its project partner GIVIT are also connecting people with disability with digital devices.
Accessing to up-to-date and accessible devices, ongoing affordability and inclusive support for people with disability to feel confident online are the three main pillars of the Digital Inclusion project.
“Our Digital Inclusion project is helping people with disability get access to digital services, make informed decisions about options for affordable data, and learn skills and digital ability,” says Michelle.
“In order for support to be accessible, we need to meet people where they’re at – a lot of people with disability have never had the opportunity of being online and supported in the right way to do so.”
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift towards remote work and online learning, how important is digital accessibility and inclusion for people with disability?
We know digital inclusion is extremely important for people with disability, especially during disasters like floods, cyclones, fires or during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance for people with disability to be online and have access to emergency and essential services,” says Michelle.
“Digital inclusion helps ensures equal access to employment, education, healthcare, and other essential services.”
“For many people with disability, digital platforms have also become vital for social connectedness.”
What impact do you think the Queensland Government’s digital economy strategy and action plan will have on digital inclusion for people with disability?
According to Michelle, the Queensland Government's digital economy strategy and action plan have the potential to create a more inclusive digital landscape.
“The strategy and action plan have the potential to have a significant impact on digital inclusion for people with disability,” says Michelle.
“I’m hopeful we will see improved accessibility standards, more collaboration and partnerships, inclusive digital infrastructure, education and skills development, and employment opportunities for people with disability.”
How can people with disability advocate for their own digital accessibility needs, and what steps can they take to ensure that their voices are heard?
Michelle says advocacy is crucial to ensure the digital accessibility needs of people with disability are met.
“My advice for people with disability is to participate in consultations and forums, utilise social media, and collaborate with other advocates,” explains Michelle.
“Joining disability advocacy organisations like QDN can provide people with disability with a collective voice and support system.”
How do you see the future of disability accessibility and inclusion evolving?
Michelle believes through advocacy, collaboration, and policy development we can create a more accessible and inclusive world for people with disability.
“The future of disability accessibility and inclusion has great potential,”
“Governments worldwide are recognising the importance of digital inclusion and enacting legislation and policies.”
Michelle says co-design plays an important role in ensuring accessibility and inclusion for people with disability.
“There is a growing recognition of the importance of involving people with disability in decision-making processes related to accessibility,” says Michelle.
“People’s lived experiences and expertise are invaluable in shaping policies, standards, and practices that are truly inclusive and accessible.”
Michelle says collaboration between disability advocacy organisations, businesses, and governments will continue to play a vital role in driving accessibility and inclusion.
“By working together, we can share knowledge, resources, and expertise to create more accessible world.”