DREAM Researchers Participate in Round-table Discussion on Human Rights and Disability

""DREAM researchers, Ieva Eskyte, Anthony Giannoumis and Magdi Birtha participated in a round-table discussion titled Human Rights and Disability: between choice and control at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas Lithuania on 21st October. The event aimed to facilitate  discussion and raise awareness on the importance of disability studies and disability rights.

The round-table addressed the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities stating,

Since the key message of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) is that disabled people have to exercise all human rights and fundamental freedoms equally with non-disabled citizens, the purpose of the meeting is to discuss disability and human rights issues in different contexts. For instance, different models of disability will be discussed from Scandinavian, British and Lithuanian perspectives. In addition, the relation between accessibility, disability movement and private markets will be analysed. Special attention will be paid to disability research, ethics and methods.

Practitioners, scholars and graduate students from a variety of disciplines presented their professional and academic experiences in the field of disability and human rights.


The full program included,

  • Welcome &  Some Thoughts about Social Sensitivity, Reciprocity & Dialogue. Dean prof. Jonas Ruškus of Faculty of Social Sciences
  • Vytautas Magnus University, People with Disabilities and the Right to Reveal Potential. Ieva Danilevičienė, Vytautas Magnus University
  • The impact of family and friends social support on accepting mobility impairments. Laura Alčiauskaitė, dr. Liuda Šinkariova, Vytautas Magnus University
  • A comparative case study of e-accessibility policy implementation in the United Kingdom, Norway and the United States. G. Anthony Giannoumis, The Norwegian Social Research Institute
  • Information provision in the mainstream private market: business practices and disabled customers’ realities. Ieva Eskytė, University of Leeds, Centre for Disability Studies, UK
  • Participation of persons with disabilities in policy and decision-making processes. Magdi Birtha, Centre for Disability Law and Policy, National University of Ireland, Galway

DREAM would like to warmly thank the conveners at Vytautas Magnus University for the opportunity to work together in realizing the rights of persons with disabilities.


DREAM Launches Disability Rights Digital Bibliography

As a joint project between researchers at NUI Galway and DREAM, the Disability Rights Digital Bibliography seeks to provide a single point of contact for academic references in disability rights. The bibliography was compiled based on individual contributions from researchers in seven research institutions throughout Europe. The bibliographies were established based on the thematic interests of the researchers and represent a wide array of areas impacting disability in Europe and internationally. Each bibliography is available as an accessible Microsoft Word document as well as a Research Information Systems (RIS) format which can be imported into most reference management software applications.

  • All Bibliographies
  • e-Accessibility – Word / RIS
  • Disability Rights and the CRPD – Word / RIS
  • Disability Theory – Word / RIS
  • Indicators and Monitoring of Human Rights – Word / RIS
  • Legal Capacity – Word / RIS
  • Medicalization of Disability – Word / RIS
  • Methodology for Research Disability – Word / RIS
  • Non-Discrimination – Word / RIS
  • Treaty Interpretation – Word / RIS
  • Web Accessibility – Word / RIS

We want to encourage our users interested in contributing further to this initiative to contact Suzanne Doyle or Anthony Giannoumis

A permanent link to the bibliography can be found at NUI Galway.

Active Citizenship and Fiscal Innovation

DREAM principle investigator Gerard Quinn reflects on the role of fiscal innovation in achieving active citizenship for persons with disabilities as a part of an EU funded project, DISCIT – Making Persons with Disabilites Full Citizens.

The video is closed captioned in English, and the transcipt is available for download in Word and PDF.

DREAM Panel – Disability Policy in Crisis – accepted to 20th International Conference of Europeanists

cover of conference brochureA panel submission by DREAM ESRs Stelios CharitakisG. Anthony Giannoumis, and Ieva Eskyte will be presented at the 20th International Conference of Europeanists 25 to 27 June 2013 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

The panel titled “Disability Policy in Crisis – Legal, Public Policy and Practical Approaches” will be chaired by Dr. Mark Davis, and Dr. Thomas Campbell will be acting as the discussant.

The panel will be divided into three sections:

  • Austerity measures in Greece: Do they violate the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities? presented by Stelios Charitakis
  • Disability.eu – the impact of the crisis on the participation of persons with disabilities on the web presented by G. Anthony Giannoumis
  • Accessible Private Market for Disabled People? Crisis in Policy and Market Practices presented by Ieva Eskyte

Panel Summary: The austerity measures that have been adopted throughout Europe have put pressure to the beneficiaries of social welfare, most significantly minorities. As a minority group, disabled people are facing significant reductions or cuts to their benefits. Households with people with impairments are more vulnerable because they have lower than average household incomes. At the same time, a crucial shift on how disabled people are perceived has emerged from the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This UN Treaty marked the shift from the medical model of disability that focused on the impairment of disabled people and was expressed through social welfare benefits, to the social model that promotes full participation and inclusion for people with disabilities through the removal of barriers to equal and active participation in society. States are not the only ones responsible for the implementation of this approach. The private sector in general can be and should be, according to the Convention, leading that cause. Furthermore, the Convention focuses particular attention on information and communication technology (ICT), because of the important role it plays in ensuring social inclusion and full participation in society for disabled people.

The first speaker will take a legal approach. They will examine the case of cutbacks in Greece and will identify the measures that have been taken to reduce the benefits for people with disabilities. The discussion will include whether these measures amount to a violation of the CRPD or whether they are justified, according to Human Rights law. Finally, whether these measures can be seen as an opportunity to change the medical model approach and focus more on the social model approach and what measures Greece have taken to that respect will be considered.

The second speaker will take a public policy approach. They will compare regulatory regimes in the United Kingdom, Norway and the United States, focusing particularly on the social regulation of ICT service providers. The discussion will include the impact of the economic crisis on policy implementation in terms of the choice of policy tools (legislative, incentive, or hortatory). Finally regulatory enforcement of web design will be discussed in terms of standard setting, monitoring, certification and compliance.

The third speaker will take a practice oriented approach. They will examine practical measures that need to be taken by governments in order to achieve a more accessible private market for disabled people. The discussion will cover the impact of economic crisis on disabled shoppers’ position and patterns in the market as well as on experiences of sellers and producers of ICT. The discussion will be framed in Habermas’ life world colonization theory and informed by the position of the EU through a discussion of pertinent policy documents.

DREAMing of 2012

WordPress.com prepared a 2012 annual report for our blog.

image of fireworks and skyline

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 4,400 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 7 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

DREAM publication of “How do social institutions influence E-Accessibility polices in the UK, US, and Norway?”

Improvement by Evaluation cover pageI’m happy to announce the publication this summer of my paper co-authored by Rune Halvorsen “How do social institutions influence E-Accessibility polices in the UK, US, and Norway?“. The paper is a peer reviewed publication published as part of the 8th International Conference on Evaluation for Practice: Improvement by Evaluation and published by the University of Tampere School of Humanities and Sciences Unit at University Consortium of Pori.

The article appears as part of Section III, International Comparative Approaches in Evaluation and the publication editors introduce the article as

[an analysis of] policy documents from the U.S., UK and Norway in order to investigate how national and supranational, policies balance and mediate regional and international economic and social needs in the context of E-Accessibility, regulated by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The results show that the different national policy traditions truly matter. The authors conclude by emphasizing the utility of judicial enforcement, the flexibility of providing a low threshold administrative complaint mechanism, and the importance of monitoring.

Of additional note is “The slippery slope of evaluation: Ethics, issues, & methodological challenges using the case study of a housing development” by JoDee Keller at Pacific Lutheran University which discusses the impact on various populations including persons with disabilities of public housing development in the United States Pacific Northwest.

Somewhere…over the horizon part 1

the 2012 Horizon report cover

The 2012 Horizon Report was recently released by the New Media Consortium and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. The report highlights emerging technology trends projected to impact education on a global scale.

I’ve personally been following the annual reports for the past four years, and the forward thinking and progressive approach to technology is very encouraging. This is not to say that the “horizon” they point towards is inevitable, but that the reports are informed enough and courageous enough to project a future in an industry where it’s become cliche to describe development as exponential.

The 2012 report projects the following adoption trends:

  • Adoption in 1 year or less
    • Mobile Apps
    • Tablet Computing
  • Adoption in 2 to 3 years
    • Game-based learning
    • Learning analytics
  • Adoption in 4 to 5 years
    • Gesture-based computing
    • Internet of things

Without turning this post into a dissertation, I’d like to toss around some ideas about how these developments may impact the right to education and the right to information for persons with disabilities. This post will be divided into three parts, addressing each of the projections in the report.

In 2012 mobile apps and tablet computing have become emblematic of how we consume, educate, and learn. However mobile apps and tablet computing are part and parcel of the same fundamental accessibility challenge. That is the development of touchscreen interfaces as a popular mode of human computer interface (HCI). This HCI du jour is paradoxical in that it promotes cost efficacy and inclusiveness for certain populations while potentially excluding persons with disabilities such as those who are blind and partially sighted. As educational providers continue to adopt this technology, it is imperative that they evaluate the accessibility of both the device hardware as well as the apps.

It is clear in the development of HCI from the command prompts of MS-DOS to the graphical user interface in early Apple and Microsoft operating systems to the touchscreen  interfaces ubiquitous in mobile devices, that multi-sensory inputs will continue to broaden the widespread appeal of technology while challenging the inclusiveness for persons with disabilities. This provides a clear opportunity for Universal Design in the approach to another Horizon Report projection, the adoption of gesture-based computing in the next four to five years. More on the role of accessibility in gesture-based computing and education in part 3 of this post.



Summertime and the DREAMin’ is easy…

picture of the beachAfter a lovely, unannounced summer holiday, I am pleased to say that the reinvigorated contributors to the DREAM blog will be posting several exciting new articles in the coming weeks!

Stay tuned for posts about…

  • The role of Impact Assessments in policy and research
  • The 2012 Horizon report: education, disability, and the role of technology
  • the DREAM library
  • DREAM research publication and presentation announcements
  • upcoming DREAM events
  • as well as posts from guest bloggers from around the world

I hope everyone had a delightful summer! Thank you for your support, and if you haven’t done so, please Like our Facebook page and share our posts!

Inquiry into the Accessibility of Research Technology

Note: this post is an extension of an earlier post Disability Researching

image of a Railroad punch card computer 1967

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.

A Conversation about Apples

In the IT world, I think there are basically four philosophies

  1. The vegetarian: Owns an Apple because they are shiny and healthy
  2. The carnivore: Owns a Windows PC because they can be taken apart, ground up and eaten with a bit of mustard
  3. The omnivore: Owns an iPad, Android phone, Windows desktop and Macbook and consumes them all simultaneously
  4. The vegan: Lives on Linux alone

""Of course this is an exceedingly inappropriate stereotypical and mostly useless typology, but the point is that persons who love technology typically have very strong feelings about its purpose, function and role in their life. Sure there are cases of ambivalence, but people who are passionate about technology can usually find one faction or another to ally themselves with.

Where this breaks down is with accessible technology. I’m remiss to say that people aren’t passionate about accessible technology, but I’ve yet to see an online forum that captures the vindication, dogmatism and zealousness that is sometimes seen on technology blogs and user forums. Now granted, this may be a good thing since creating accessible technology is something of a collaborative effort, bringing in people who create the technology, people that use the technology, and people that would like to use the technology.

Now this limited passion approach for creating accessible technology may be due to the lack of a villain. There’s no one touting the awesomeness of inaccessible or unusable technology. There’s no one saying “Hey check out my new phone, it took me six weeks and I had to read the entire 4,682 page manual to figure out how to make a phone call!” In fact, I think most technology producers are aware of accessibility, especially in terms of usability. But I think what’s missing is the rivalry, or the belief that my technology is better than yours because EVERYONE can use it. And perhaps that’s why Apple has become a leader in this field, because part of their belief structure revolves around using elegant solutions to solve complex problems. It just happens that those solutions are in the form of accessible computers and phones.

Note: this post was inspired at least partially by the presentation by Simon Sinek for TED