Digital knowledge tools that assume everyone approaches information with the same abilities and using the same methods risk excluding a large poercentage of people. In fact, such tools actually do the work of disabling people by preventing them from using digital resources altogether. We must broaden our understanding of the ways in which people use digital resources. (Williams 2012: 202).
There is no one ‘right’ way to interact with a stream of ones and zeros. What can we do about that? How can we widen access to the digital humanities – or rather, how can the digital humanities widen access? What do we need to be thinking about? What does ‘access’ actually mean? Is ‘open access’ a broad enough concept to extend to not just publishing, but also to how we design? Adam Crymble recently warned us about ‘shock and awe’ graphics and visualizations. But that’s the thing: visual. What about audio? How can we represent digital data so that other senses are privileged? Can we speak about ‘auralization’ – and what kind of insights would such a thing generate? It’s hard to avoid the language of the visual when we’re talking about digital humanities, but I think it’s important that we try.
To paraphrase Hugh Herr of MIT Media lab, ‘there’s no such thing as disability; only bad design’.