Asia-Pacific Jul 9, 2012
A Western Australian researcher has been rewarded for her research demonstrating the substantial benefits of telecommunications technology to deliver help persons with disabilities.
Dr Katie Ellis, a lecturer at Murdoch University has been awarded a share of $15000 for her paper, “It means inclusion: a creative approach to disability and telecommunications policy in Australia.”
Dr Ellis’ research reflects upon concerns of accessibility and usability relevant to users with disabilities and current technology.
“This paper is about how the National Broadband (NBN), digital TV and mobile phones can decrease the social and physical isolation of persons with disabilities – but only if they are made accessible to persons with disabilities,” she says.
In the paper, Dr Ellis argues that we live in an era where users can customize their technology and benefit from accessibility measures that persons with disabilities need.
“It is time to stop thinking about the needs of persons with disabilities as something extra or something special,” she says.
“I call this accessibility 2.0, and it basically means accessing your information of choice in your format of choice.”
Dr Ellis says if the technology is accessible, the possibilities could go on to inspire people with more opportunities for achieving user-preference customization.
“Australia must learn from the mistakes of other nations to ensure people with disabilities can access these exciting new digital communications.”
Even though there have been some encouraging changes to the industry here in Australia, Dr Ellis says complacency can still be a problem.
Dr Ellis says the award for her research commemorates the work of Christopher Newell who worked tirelessly and passionately within the telecommunications industry.
“Even though there have been some really promising changes and innovations, we still need to do what he [Christopher Newell] argued in 1998, and that was to broaden our definition of what a standard telecommunications device is and think about the costs of not including, people rather than the cost of including them,” she says.
“To do this, we, as a community, need to think about the way we treat persons with disabilities.”
Dr Ellis’ interest in this topic goes back to a personal experience with disability following a stroke during her teenage years, and then working with persons with disabilities and noticing the affect technology had on them.
“Persons with disabilities can now both engage and benefit from the media, especially with opportunities to create their own content and participate in it.”
The Telstra-TJA Christopher Newell Prize recognises and honours the work that the late Revd Canon Dr Christopher Newell AM commenced within the telecommunications industry from 1990 to 2008 representing the needs of persons with disabilities.