Disability: the struggle for inclusion in a digital society

Watling, Sue (2012) Disability: the struggle for inclusion in a digital society. In: Social Work and Social Development: Action and Impact, 8-12 July 2012, Stockholm.

Disability_the_struggle_for_inclusion_in_a_digital_society.pdf - Presentation

Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Presentation)
Item Status:Live Archive


In an increasingly digital society, citizens denied access to digital ways of working, are experiencing a double exclusion. Struggling for access to information and welfare services which are moving to ‘digital-by-default’ design and delivery, they are also facing barriers to participation within a public sphere where the platforms for discussion and debate are predominantly digital in nature.

Current research highlights potential links between social exclusion and the potential for digital exclusion (Van Dijk 2005, Lane-Fox 2010). One consequence of this is the way in which social workers are finding they are experiencing both sides of a digital divide (Steyaert and Gould 2009). On the one hand, practitioners are working with increasingly digital information and communication systems, while on the other, informed by the principles of human rights and social justice, their daily case load will involves issues of digital exclusion, in particular where service users find themselves denied access to mainstream ‘digital-by-default’ welfare and public services (Rafferty and Steyaert 2007, Watling 2011).

If social work students are to be equipped for 21st century professional practice, it will be necessary for social work educators to ensure digital literacies are an essential component of their graduate attributes. The University of Lincoln in the UK has put in place measures to ensure its social work graduates develop the necessary confidence and competencies essential for a digital age. Using a combination of virtual learning alongside face-to-face lectures and seminars, students engage with digital resources designed to enhance their work within digital environments, as well as having opportunities to apply this knowledge to their placement and professional practice.

This presentation will raise awareness of the realities of digital exclusion, in particular for service-users struggling to achieve inclusion and equal participation in an increasingly digital world. It will show how barriers to digital access can be disabling and suggest digital disability has implications for social work education and practice. As well as offering solutions from the experience of educators on the social work degree at the University of Lincoln, the presentation will provide timely opportunities for initiating future discussion on what is fast becoming a new category of 21st century marginalisation, disadvantage and disempowerment.

Keywords:digital inclusion, digital exclusion; accessibility; social inclusion; disabled people
Subjects:X Education > X342 Academic studies in Higher Education
X Education > X142 Training Teachers - Higher Education
Divisions:Professional services > Lincoln Higher Education Research Institute
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ID Code:6134
Deposited On:13 Sep 2012 09:18

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