Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The new (and growing) digital divide

A lot of work has been done about and a lot of attention has been given to the gap between those who have access and those who don't have access to information technologies, based on levels of income of the individuals and/or different levels of development of the countries they belong to. However, with the constant growth in broadband usage in developed countries and the resulting increase in the use of video-rich and flash or Macromedia based contents and the advent of the so-called Internet 2.0, a new digital divide is in the rise: the gap between those who can hear and see, and those who don't have that capacity. With the "original" text based Internet, most people who had access to it could see it, read it or have a software reading it for them, but with videos or even sound based content, the software that reads pages ignores the content and those with a hearing impairment cannot know what the video (or the person in the video) is talking about. In addition of the obvious social consequences of exclusion of those with different capacities, there are legal ones, since many countries have in place legislation to ensure that disabled people have access to most of the services that non-disabled people would have.
Having a flashy website could seem nice but...


Anonymous said...

I agree with this post.

I'm seeing it more EVERYDAY now as a hearing impaired person. I didn't quite notice it until maybe 2 weeks ago... people started emailing me links to video streams to check out through websites and I can't because I can't hear... So I am left with only a visual picture of the video clips/streams. It actually started a few months ago but I didn't let it bother me and my hearing friends would send back a short explanation what it was about.

I realized, this was the same in the business world where you work for a company and soemtimes the CEO or upper management will send all employees video clips for you to review/watch/learn, I was faced with this challenge with my internship with Intuit in America. My boss would email me explaining what it was about instead since I could not watch it.

Then today... my friend watched Greg's Anatomy, how? Through the computer! I was sitting next to her and she was watching it, and I was like hey, I can't do that and shes like... oh yeah, wow, that's right! Only in some cases you will have subtitles if it is foreign but it doesn't always explain what the video is talking about fully so we still miss out.

Then lately I am having problems with my tmobile account (sidekick II) to use internationally. I believe hearing people get better offers/deals because they are able to use the voice part of the cellphone while hearing impaired people don't, as a result they are disadvantaged with more charges against their texting capabilities and other features such as emailing and internet usages.

It seems the gap is growing with the hearing impaired needs (we are talking about millions with any type of hearing loss) and hearing needs in the digital world.

I know there are THOUSANDS of hearing impaired sidekick users with tmobile service in America (literally every deaf person I know uses a sidekick, send them overseas and they will struggle with tmobile's services). In London and rest of Europe, it seems the majority of hearing impaired users I have encountered in the last 3 months use a regular cellphone with texting capabilities only. How they are charged with their providers, I don't know.

Using a loaner phone, I have already spent almost 3 times the amount I spend on my sidekick phone in America... alone on text messaging only in 3 weeks! My benefits are so so much more and better in America with my regular plan.

What to do? My fight with tmobile continues and I'm still on a loaner phone... We will see how that will progress...

smplcv said...

Nice article! thanks for sharing with me!