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32 Days Remaining moves to Slewth.co.uk

23/11/2011

As of today, 32 Days Remaining has migrated to a new home http://www.slewth.co.uk and new name (the Slewth Press). I have decided to upgrade my wordpress blog to a new domain and hosting. With this move, I now have more control over the appearance and delivery of content – resulting in new options to enhance accessibility. I hope you will continue to read my blog, and will join me at slewth.co.uk. I will maintain 32 Days Remaining in a dormant state as an archive for the near future, but I encourage you to update any subscriptions, feeds or bookmarks from this site to the new address.

 

Best wishes

Sarah Lewthwaite

Feel Good (Braille) Business Cards on a Budget

20/09/2011

I recently ordered a new set of business cards to match my new prefix (Dr) and new email address. Previously I’ve relied on institutional business cards – however, as I’m now freelance, significant decisions have had to be made regarding content, design, usability and accessibility. Cost and convenience have also been important. As with all such things, time was short as I noticed several impending events careering towards me; (see my Twitter account @slewth for forthcoming tweets from the a11yLDN unConference on Weds 21st Sept 2011).

The need for speed led me to moo.com. Moo supply a huge range of designed templates, with options for those wanting to make their own. They print to both Premium and high quality Green standards.  They can rush a print job and supply a sprint delivery also.

I chose the Less is More design by Jonathan Howells on several grounds: it uses a large, legible font, the contrast is reasonable and, importantly, there’s plenty of analogue hack space on the reverse.  The cards arrived today – so I’m halfway there.

Less Is More business card

The front of my new business card using large black and white text on a mid tone grey background.

Less is More business card: reverse view

Less is More business card reverse view: the words 'My Card' and a large blank space that I intend to hack.

As committed readers will know, I also want braille for my business cards.  My previous investigations in this area have led me to Azzabat, who have supplied me with transparent braille stickers that can be applied over a standard business card (or anything else). Azzabat frankly rock the opposition.

University business card with braille sticker

My previous university business card with transparent braille sticker overlaid. Braille on this side represents my name, phd status and the LSRI over four lines.

University business card with braille: reverse view.

My university business card with braille label: reverse view. Four lines of embossed braille give my phone number (top line) and email address (over next three lines).

There are no set up fees, customer service is excellent and I recommend them highly, especially for institutions and other organisations. Importantly, as their labels are clear, they can be stuck to both sides of a business card (as pictured) – this is vital given the large (36 size) font necessary for braille  - as it allows more space for contact information to be represented.  Azzabat have a minimum order of 100 units with labels retailing at £0.85 ($1.33) per unit. This is well below other equivalent brailling services for business cards, but on this occassion I needed a cheaper option.

As a result, I’m taking a D.I.Y. approach. With a view to creating my own (opaque) labels  for the reverse of my new cards. I’ve just ordered the RNIB‘s Braille King Pocket Frame.  This is a small device that allows the user to create braille. The demonstration video below shows how it is used.

The Braille King Pocket Frame retails at £14.39 ($22.5). I’m really looking forward to trying this out. I’ll post the results back to this blog when the device arrives. Comments, as always, are welcome.

Call for Contributions: 6th Nottingham Research Network Conference

12/07/2011

The Nottingham Research Network (Special Educational Needs, Social and Educational Inclusion, Health and Disabilities) has issued a second call for papers for their 6th annual conference, scheduled for Friday 13th January 2012.  This free conference is a collaborative and friendly event that welcomes presentations from people outside academia, as well as those who have not presented before. At previous conferences delegates have represented local schools, councils, student and housing groups, charities, advocacy organisations, support workers, and academics from a variety of disciplines across Nottingham Trent University and the University of Nottingham (to name but a few). I have a lot of affection for this conference – the inaugural conference was my first experience of having my presentation interpreted by a BSL interpreter – and this early postgraduate presentation subsequently led to my becoming involved with Human Factors research in Engineering, alongside my own work in Learning Sciences and Disability Studies. It is this kind of juncture, between social sciences and hard sciences, as well as the applied and practical aspects of the conference that make it so important to Nottingham.

This years’ theme is “Creative Approaches to Building Relationships”. At present there is no online presence for the conference (the network has  previously been active on Ning) so I’m reproducing the call for papers in full here.

The Nottingham Research Network
(Special Educational Needs, Social and Educational Inclusion, Health and Disabilities)

6th Annual conference
“Connecting people with shared interests to promote increased collaboration”

Call for contributions on the theme of

CREATIVE APPROACHES TO BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS

University of Nottingham
(Jubilee Campus)

Friday 13th January 2012 from 9.00-16.00

We welcome proposals for presentations, workshops and/or innovative approaches. We are keen to encourage new presenters. Please contact us by September 22nd:

  • Anne Emerson, Communication for Inclusion Research Unit, Division of Psychology, Nottingham Trent University.
  • Edward Sellman, School of Education, University of Nottingham.
  • Jackie Dearden, Children’s Services, MALT Central, Community Educational Psychology Service, Nottingham.

The conference is a local one, aimed at increasing communication between researchers, practitioners, learners and others in the field. However, the network is a successful one – entering the 6th year of this annual conference. If you are looking to establish a similar city wide, or sub-regional network, I recommend getting in touch with one of the contacts above for information.

Disability, Governmentality and Social Media. Feat. MIA

08/07/2011

I’m keen to share resources for scholars in the area of social media, disability studies and education, however, these ‘resources’ are often academic papers or similar. Breaking with usual form, I’d like to introduce the opening track on MIA’s 2010 album MAYA. This song ‘The Message’ uses phrases from the traditional spiritual ‘Dem Bones’ integrating technology, corporations and governments into the connected body parts. The song is short at just under a minute, but there is plenty here for those interested in beginning discussions of biopower and governmentality in cultural studies and/or critical approaches to science and technology with students. To clarify: I’m not reproducing this with a focus on literal consipiracy. I want to highlight the ways in which our understandings of our physical selves are shaped by the quantifying aspects of technology and business, and how these shaping forces tally with with governmental (and medical and academic) projects that imbue life with statistical significance.  I’ll be publishing more in this area soon, please keep an eye on my ‘publications‘ page for more info.

I have copied and annotated the lyrics (copyright MIA) in lieu of subtitles.

The Message

[intro sound of typing on keyboard, followed by layering of abrasive sampled beats and an effects-laden vocal sample/echo that is looped throughout the song]

Connected to the Google
Connected to the government

[lead male vocal]

Headbone connected to the neckbone
Neckbone connected to the armbone
Armbone connected to the handbone
Handbone connected to the internet connected to the Google connected to the government.

[sample] Connected to the Google
Connected to the government

Headbone connects to the headphones
Headphones connect to the iPhone
iPhone connected to the internet connected to the Google connected to the government

[sample] Connected to the Google
Connected to the government

Student Experiences of Disability and Social Networks in Higher Education

29/06/2011

There has been a blogging hiatus here at Lewthwaite Industries, but perhaps with the best reasons. In May I submitted my corrections and in June I joined the pass list, submitting hardbound copies of my thesis in June (with thanks to the excellent Print Quarter in West Bridgford). In July I will be graduating and receiving my PhD. Whilst this has been taking place I’ve been working with Nottingham’s Human Factors Research Group, contributing to the MyUI project, a European project dedicated to developing adaptive interfaces for older users. I’ve also been developing publications from my thesis along with further research options on disability and social networks – but more on both of these developments later.  Perhaps most importantly, it’s time to introduce my thesis: “Disability 2.0: Student dis/Connections: a study of student experiences of disability and social networks on campus in higher education”. Here’s the abstract, a slightly expanded version is included on my ‘research’ pages above:

For many young people, social networks are an essential part of their student experience. Using a Foucauldian perspective, this qualitative study explores the networked experiences of disabled students to examine how dis/ability difference is ascribed and negotiated within social networks. Data comprises 34 internet-enabled interviews with 18 participants from three English universities. Accessible field methods recognise participant preferences and circumstances. Data is analysed using discourse analysis, with an attention to context framed by activity theory. Disabled students’ networked experiences are found to be complex and diverse. For a proportion, the network shifts the boundaries of disability, creating non-disabled subjectivities. For these students, the network represents the opportunity to mobilise new ways of being, building social capital and mitigating impairment.

Other participants experience the network as punitive and disabling. Disability is socio-technically ascribed by the social networking site and the networked public. Each inducts norms that constitute disability as a visible, deviant and deficit identity. In the highly normative conditions of the network, where every action is open to scrutiny, impairment is subjected to an unequal gaze that produces disabled subjectivities. For some students with unseen impairments, a social experience of disability is inducted for the first time. As a result, students deploy diverse strategies to retain control and resist deviant status. Self-surveillance, self-discipline and self-advocacy are evoked, each involving numerous social, cognitive and technological tactics for self-determination, including disconnection. I conclude that networks function both as Technologies of the Self and as Technologies of Power. For some disabled students, the network supports ‘normal’ status. For others, it must be resisted as a form of social domination.

Importantly, in each instance, the network propels students towards disciplinary techniques that mask diversity, rendering disability and the possibility of disability invisible. Consequently, disability is both produced and suppressed by the network.

I have a huge list of people to thank for insight and support over the course of my doctoral study – I also have a substantial bibliography (although I’m sure this can only get larger). Danah Boyd already maintains a substantial bibliography of social networking research, and there are significant accessibility reading lists freely available through several institutions – however, I will be developing a ‘disability’ and ‘network’ specific library here at 32 Days over the coming weeks, as this is a literature I’ve received a lot of requests about and I’m sure it will serve other researchers developing the field. I’m currently looking into the best ways to share my work whilst observing copyright obligations for the publications I have in train. Once again, more on that later.

In Memoriam: On the closure of SKILL, the UKs National Bureau for Students with Disabilities

01/05/2011

I’ve written this post as part of Blogging Against Disablism Day, an annual event hosted by the Goldfish. Be sure to check out other contributions via her excellent blog.  This post is about the closure of Skill, the National Bureau for Students with Disabilities in the UK, the only pan-disability organisation dedicated to promoting equality for disabled people in education, training and employment.  Approximately two weeks ago the following message was posted to their website:

It is with great sadness that Skill: National Bureau for Students with Disabilities announces that it has ceased operating. Following a period of financial difficulty, Skill’s Board of Trustees has decided that it is no longer viable to keep the charity open. The Chair of Skills’ Board of Trustees, Peter Little OBE said “This is sad day for all of us. We had recently appointed an outstanding new Chief Executive and agreed a clear strategy to reduce our costs and turn around our finances, but in the end time was against us” [...] It is hoped that others may step in to fill the gap this has left in the support available.

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2011

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2011

Does this constitute a suitable topic for Blogging Against Disablism? Well, read on. Unfortunately, I believe this loss will result in a kind of structural disablism rising unchecked.  In the first place, I had hoped that this closure would elicit some coverage in national Education media, but it appears, to me at least, that current news frenzy dedicated to rises in tuition fees and wider issues of university funding have foreclosed on any coverage of this significant loss to the sector as a whole, and disabled students in particular. And this is a significant loss.

I was not aware of the financial difficulties facing Skill, and I have had few dealings with them directly. In these dealings, however, I have had a privileged view into some of the work they undertook – work that is extremely important – but receives little publicity.  In my PhD thesis I identify Skill’s role consulting on the redefinition of UCAS and HESA’s much disputed disability codes – the cornerstone of the self assessment process that all students face when applying to Higher Education Institutions. In this consultation, they represented disabled students views, in a way no one else, seemingly, can.  But this is by no means the most important work they’ve done.  A recent response to government consultation, an evidence submission on The future funding for Higher Education is more typical of their output and their website  continues to host a myriad of important documents for students and educators.

It is the loss of their expert advisors and staff that is the most worrying development, however, especially within a climate of cuts that are disproportionately hitting disabled people and students across the country.  It is not simply that disabled students are members of both these groups. As the number of disabled students in higher education has grown under the auspices of equality legislation, a serious and unanticipated threat to disabled students’ participation has manifested in the administrative incompetence of the Student Loans Company.

On the 5th of February 2010, the BBC reported that:

Almost 12,500 disabled students in England are still waiting for grants to pay for specialist equipment, figures from the Student Loans Company show.

Disabled students wait for specialist equipment grants (BBC)

Since then, the SLCs failure to process 209,000 student’s grants and loans in autumn 2010, left half of all applicants waiting weeks, and in some cases, months for financial assistance.  This had a direct and disproportionate impact on disabled students, threatening study and subsistence. As the Guardian reports:

At one point last year [2010], 87% of the 4 million calls to the SLC were going unanswered. Disabled students were disproportionately affected, with three-quarters of the 17,000 disabled students who applied for loans failing to receive them three months into the start of term. (Guardian).

Horrifyingly, with a view to the this academic year (beginning September 2011), the same Guardian article reports that the Student Loans Company Faces Ongoing Risk.  The authors note that in 2010 the Student Loans Companry was only responsible for processing the applications of new students. From this year the SLC will be responsible for applications for grants and loans from all students in England. The system was previously administered by local authorities.

In this context, the loss of any disability advocacy seems perilous.  Who will step in to fill the gap?

***update*** As of the 6th July 2011 the Disability Alliance has adopted Skill’s critical services for Disabled Students. Their Skill web space is under construction

Thoughts and comments are very welcome, as always.

#9 Critical Approaches to Accessibility for Technology Enhanced Learning by Sarah Lewthwaite

27/04/2011

To take advantage of Routledge’s free Education journal access over the course of April 2011, I’ve presented 19 papers to highlight research with powerful applications in the fields of technology, disability and education.  Comments and suggestions are, as always, welcome. This is my final post in this series.

Lewthwaite, Sarah (2011) ‘Viewpoint: Critical Approaches to Accessibility for Technology Enhanced Learning’. Learning, Media and Technology. Vol 36, Issue 1, pp 85-89.

Learning Media and Technology

Learning Media and Technology

Last year I was invited by Neil Selwyn to submit a viewpoint article for the journal of Learning, Media and Technology, based on insights from my PhD research.  Learning, Media and Technology is one of the journals listed as part of Routledge’s Education Free for all, so my article and others are available for download to everyone regardless of subscription status until the end of the month.

Readers may know that editor Neil Selwyn has published substantially in the area of digital inclusion, frequently supplying a critical analysis on the political forces that shape technology discourses. I particularly recommend his research on low and non-users of technology (unfortunately, not openly available online).  As such, I was delighted to be given the opportunity to contribute to the journal. But that’s enough gushing. My article conducts a brief review of accessibility discourse, and should offer a welcome orientation for readers interested in e-learning and technology enhanced learning. The Journal of Learning, Media and Technology also rewards exploration – so if you’re part of the twitterati, facebook-elite or blogosphere and want to know more about your modus operandi, be sure to check out the journals’ contents.

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