Accessibility – a gateway to equality for everyone

Blake LeitchBlake Leitch is a writer from Auckland’s North Shore who recently graduated from Massey University with a degree in journalism. He’s also a current participant in the Be. Leadership programme.  In this week’s guest blog, he explains how accessibility is something that affects all of us.

I recently gave a lecture at Massey University on the connection between work, technology, and disability. It was a general ‘make the students think outside the box’ kind of deal; aiming to show that while work and technology may be mechanising and dehumanising at a conveyor belt level, it can also be extremely humanising for those who would otherwise be distanced from society.

Maybe it depends on the disability – I claim no authoritative knowledge over disability as a whole – but technology allows me to take part in things that other humans do; things like work. I am certainly not the greatest example of a worker, but my voice activation software allows me to be the writer that I want to be.

My wheelchair allows me to interact with society, my touchscreen phone allows me to connect with people in ways that everyone else does, and things as simple as ramps allow me to get places I never imagined I would be (the peak of Motu Pohue for example, overlooking the end of this magnificent country). But one of the things that really struck a chord with me while I was speaking was the idea of accessibility.

This is something that was first brought to my attention during a Be. Leadership weekend, how disability and accessibility aren’t synonymous. In fact, accessibility is something that makes everybody’s life easier. I mentioned that I use voice activation software for writing, but so do thousands of other people, disabled and non-disabled alike.

I’ve mentioned that I use a touchscreen phone, and so do millions of other people nowadays. Naturally, because of my wheelchair, I require ramps to get places; but I have never seen another person walking up a ramp saying “I hate ramps”. There is nobody in this world who can truly dislike anything about accessibility (well, except the people putting effort into trying to make it happen).

This blog is about diversity and that is something that is sometimes synonymous with accessibility. I had the opportunity to discuss with a small number of students the effect of accessibility on my life. What started out as a lecture on my connection as a disabled person with work and technology turned into a 60 minute chat on the advent of accessibility in everyone’s lives.

The class was composed of men and women, old and young, differing ethnic backgrounds – and those were only the visible diversities. Obviously, every single one of those people had a myriad of below-the-surface differences that made each of them truly unique.

Accessibility is something that affects everybody in different ways. It doesn’t matter who it is, accessibility strives solely to make life easier. As I have said, technology is advancing to a point where accessibility is truly changing the lives of disabled people. Accessibility isn’t liberating disabled people, it is the gateway to and foundation for equality for all of us.

You can read more from Blake on his personal blog.                                                                                                                                    

                                                                                                                                                              

Each month DPSN features one or more guest bloggers with a unique take on diversity.  We also repost relevant blogs from other sites, with permission.  If you’d like to write for DPSN, or know someone you think we should contact, please email barbara@diversitynz.com

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