Throughout history, it’s possible to identify prominent women in science and technology, but fewer women with disabilities have been recognized in this field. Not because of lack of skills, but because of the difficulty they have in accessing and participating.
While Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), have represented a gateway to multiple possibilities, such as learning from almost any location, having fun, developing, and breaking barriers of time and space; Not all population groups have benefited from them. Such is the case of women with disabilities.
Even though it could be considered that ICTs help to reduce the environmental barriers they face, one reality is that the digital division of women with disabilities is high, partly due to the different situations of discrimination experienced on a daily basis.
María del Pilar Gomiz (2016), analyzes the multiple discrimination faced by women, specifically women with disabilities (considered double discrimination because of being a woman and because of the condition of disability) and proposes three axes from which it’s possible to approach and understand the situation of women with disabilities regarding the use of ICT. Next, we’ll develop each one.
Accessibility of ICT for women with disabilities
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, an international instrument with the same weight as the Political Constitution, of which Mexico was a key piece for its creation, indicates in Article 9 that “access must be guaranteed for persons with disabilities, on equal terms with the others, the physical environment, transport, information, and communications, including information and communication systems and technologies … “
This same document defines Universal Design as “the design of products, environments, programs, and services that can be used by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.” That is, to design with ALL in mind, including the needs of people with disabilities, from scratch, to avoid subsequent adaptations.
Referring specifically to Internet sites and mobile applications, the premises of Universal Design can be fulfilled based on the accessibility principles established by W3C, (World Wide Web Consortium) which, if fulfilled, would allow that site or that app was used by anyone, including people with visual, hearing, intellectual, etc. (Yes, a person who has lost sight can surf the internet, use their social networks, check their mail, make a Word document, among other activities, as long as it is accessible).
In Mexico, there are still few accessible websites, although in 2017 the Accessibility Law of Mexico City came into force as well as the General Accessibility Guidelines for Telecommunications Services for Users with Disabilities. Regarding the first point, stands out in national companies Coppel website launched in 2018, which was tested by people with visual impairment. Regarding the second point, the IFT (Federal Institute of Telecommunications) published this year an accessibility assessment of the Internet pages of the main telecommunication service providers in the country.
What is a fact is that the existence of accessible technology is not enough, but that women with disabilities know of its existence and know how to use it.
Access of women with disabilities to ICT and the knowledge they have about them
In Mexico, according to information from the Bank of Mexico, the average schooling of people with disabilities is only 3.8 years. Among the population with disabilities of 15 years or more, 35.5% live in illiteracy and 27.8% did not complete primary education.
This low level of education is directly related to the situation of poverty. According to the same source, in Latin America and the Caribbean, 82% of people with disabilities live in poverty. This means that they do not have the economic resources to acquire this technology or the training to use it, since in most cases it has a high cost. For example, an iPhone has greater accessibility resources for people with disabilities. However, its cost is higher compared to other operating systems.
Regarding the digital divide, says María del Pilar Gomiz (2016: 139), “In the case of women with disabilities … there is a risk of leaving them out of these new ways of accessing information, condemning them to digital illiteracy that seriously undermines its possibilities for development and inclusion in the system. “However, he adds that the development of accessible technologies and support technologies” allows inclusion in work environments, giving alternatives to barriers to access that prevent women’s active participation. with disability in certain spaces. In this sense, they are fundamental in education, allowing us to participate in inclusive models on the same conditions as people without disabilities. “(Gomiz, 2016: 139)
The capacity of ICT to generate autonomy
Information Technologies make it possible to weave social networks among women, with which they can express themselves, share, learn and be trained. Multiple possibilities to empower themselves and to become visible.
In this sense, the invitation is to promote the access of women with disabilities to ICT “not only as passive users, but as promoters of the information that flows in them and as developers of them. For this, it’s necessary to educate women with disabilities, facilitate access to higher education and technical careers, and open spaces in technology companies. “(Gomiz, 2016: 139)
This is an indispensable step in the struggle for the inclusion of women with disabilities. What are you doing in your company to facilitate the integration of women with disabilities into the workforce?
Gomiz, María del Pilar (2016) ICT and women with disabilities: a window into the world. Journal of studies and youth. Spain. Available in: http://www.injuve.es/sites/default/files/revistaestudiosjuventud_111.pdf
Karina Bárcena Anguiano holds a degree in communication sciences. She has worked as Project Manager in digital agencies in Mexico, coordinating software development projects, as well as digital marketing strategies for companies nationally and internationally. She has been a reporter and photographer in the media. Instructor of the Braille literacy system, apprentice of the Mexican Sign Language. She’s an active associate of the civil association ‘Libre Acceso A.C.’ with the purpose of achieving the full inclusion of people with disabilities.
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