March 2021

On the 15th April 2021, Sarah Lewthwaite will be presenting to the Sociology of Education stream at the annual British Sociological Association (BSA) Conference. Her paper ‘Dichotomies of disability and ageing in the teaching and discourses of digital accessibility’ draws on ongoing Teaching Accessibility research with expert teachers and considers how and where disability and ageing discourses are intersected in formal and informal accessibility education. The full abstract follows:

Dichotomies of disability and ageing in the teaching and discourses of digital accessibility.

Sarah Lewthwaite and Angharad Butler Rees,
Centre for Research in Inclusion, University of Southampton.

COVID-19 has brought about unprecedented change in our society and the mediating role of technology in everyday life. The pandemic has left many, especially older and disabled people, isolated and reliant on digital platforms and services which are not always accessible. Digital accessibility is a technical discipline within Human Computer Interaction that seeks to make technologies accessible to all. Yet within teaching, disability and ageing are frequently articulated separately. Technical communities recognise a need to consider the ways in which accessibility and inclusive design practices must cater for both groups, yet they are rarely inter-related. This paper considers this discursive divide within accessibility. We broach where there is capacity for these boundaries to be more productively and critically engaged. To elucidate the issues, we draw upon qualitative research with international pedagogic leaders, to ask where older people fit within contemporary discourses of accessibility teaching. This is theorised, in light of the biopolitics of Web accessibility standards, and their pedagogic influence in a context of ‘digital first’ public services, growing regulatory frameworks, compliance culture and litigation in industry. What are the pedagogic roles of such standards, and how do teachers negotiate and answer the subtle hierarchies of impairment and ageing that standards can convey? How can the socio-technical and cultural experiences of disability and ageing be imbricated and realised within this frame, to build a more inclusive digital future? We invite delegates to engage in this dialogue and discussion.

We’re delighted to announce that Dr Andy Coverdale and Sarah Horton have joined the Teaching Accessibility project.

Following a highly competitive recruitment process, Sarah and Andy were appointed in January. Each brings a wealth of expertise and experience to bear on the project, to kickstart the New Year.

Dr Andy Coverdale is a Research Fellow in Southampton Education School with recent experience on the ‘Self-build Social Care‘ research project, using inclusive and participatory methods to work collaboratively with people with learning disabilities and their allies. He is currently working with the National Centre for Research Methods on their project ‘Changing Research Practice: Undertaking social research in the context of Covid-19’.

Andy draws on over ten years’ experience of working with, supporting and teaching people with learning disabilities, including 4 years as Learning Manager with the charity Inspire Nottingham.  He has previously conducted research in the educational use of digital media and technology through his work with iRes at Falmouth University and the Visual Learning Lab at the University of Nottingham. He completed his MA in Educational Research Methods and PhD in Education at the University of Nottingham. His thesis examined the role of social and participatory media in doctoral education.

Sarah Horton began as a designer and developer in 1991 at Yale University, making instructional CD- ROMs on cardiothoracic imaging. She was an instructional technologist at Dartmouth College, helping faculty across disciplines use technology to teach. Later she worked at the institutional level, as web director at Dartmouth and then strategy lead on Harvard University’s web transformation project.

As an accessibility engineer with The Paciello Group, Sarah performed design reviews and audits of websites, applications, apps, and devices, and conducted user research and usability studies. She was lead for TPG’s strategy services, providing strategic consulting to teams and organizations seeking to incorporate accessibility into culture and practice. She has worked with a broad range of companies and organizations, gaining insights into how accessibility is currently managed and manifested in our digital world.

Welcome, Andy and Sarah!

In November, Sarah Lewthwaite presented to the bi-annual UK Cross-Government Accessibility Meetup, talking about ways to build accessibility capacity in teams. In January, Richard Morton (Head of Accessibility, Government Digital Service) and Josie Partridge published a blog about the event – discussing some of the key themes and activities discussed during the day. The next Meetup will be in March 2021.

Join the UK Government’s Accessibility Community group to keep up to date and discover more about the diverse accessibility work taking place across UK government and government agencies.