Note: this post is an extension of an earlier post Disability Researching
It’s difficult for me to conceive of a world where research was conducted by hand. I’ve heard stories of interview transcripts housed in enormous filing cabinets, and statistical analysis conducted with carefully ordered punch cards on machines that could fill an entire building. But being a member of the information age, it often doesn’t occur to me the fantastic benefit my work receives with the aid of the Internet and computers.
However, regardless of the power or the potential of this technology to make my life as a researcher a bit less process-laden. It still falls short of providing that facility on a universal scale. The latest versions of popular research software programs (e.g. Nvivo, SPSS, SAS) are incredible examples of how far our abilities have come in our capacity to examine the world’s problems. From sociology to microbiology to archaeology our level of scientific discourse is enabled by these tools.
Gaining the knowledge and ability to use these tools can be a challenge. But when the design of these tools leave out persons who have the knowledge and abilities but lack the sensory capacity to use these tools, we limit not only the chances of those persons to contribute to their own development but their chances to contribute to the development of knowledge and science.
These observations are based both on my own experience using this technology as a person without a disability, but also on the state of the existing research (of which practically none exists concerning accessible research technology). So I think if we value the contribution of science, and if it is important that its role in our society reflects the diversity of the human experience. Then it is critically important to design these tools we use to examine our world to include persons with disabilities.