Information divide can be considered as one of the prime issues faced by international society in existing period of time. In general terms, information divide can be considered as economic inequality among different groups and communities due to unequal access of information and knowledge. From the perspective of long term sustainability of the society this information divide can be proved as one of the most critical problem as it creates knowledge inequality and gap within the society. There are a number of different reasons behind the occurrence of information divides within the society (Steyn and Johanson 2010). Difference in economic status among different communities, lack of proper access of information technological tools, physical disabilities of people and linguistic barrier can be proved some of the prime reasons behind problem of information divide within the society (Simpson 2009). In context to this, the presented essay is targeted to reflect that in Australian context, physical disabilities and linguistic barrier can be considered as the most frequent reason behind information divide within the region. In order to bridge this information divide there is a need of undertaking some intensive amount of changes in existing education facilities available to disabled people so that they can be able to retrieve adequate amount of information from various sources. In addition to this, there are different new technological changes including voice command processing machines, customization in designing and proper training especially to disabled people can be considered as the prime solution of the problem of digital divide in existing period of time.
Whether physical disability can be considered as prime cause of information divide prevailing within Australian society.
Information Divide Because of Physical Disability
Information divide phenomena demonstrate that there is a gap exists between those who have effective access of different types of information technology related equipments and procedures, and those who do not have access of such facilities (Collins 2011). There may be several reasons behind the existence of information divide and its related problems within society. in direction to this, it is seen in the context of Australian society it can be seen that physical disabilities of a person is also one of the most crucial reasons due to this comprehensive and equal access of information and its related technologies across the society. In the year 2012, only 62% of reported disabled people were online and having information access, while in the case of non physical disabled people this figure was about 79% (O’Leary 2012). This data showing that physical disabled people face problem in accessing different crucial source related to information technology.
There are several critical reasons that underpin the limited access of information and communication related technologies (ICTs) by physical disabled people. Some of the crucial reasons are listed as below:
Lack of proficiency in English language can be considered as the prime problem in using different tools related to ICT. In the case of physically disabled people in a non native English speaking country, i.e. Australia, the level of English understanding is quite limited, which is the prime reasons their limited amount of ICT proficiency. In this way, physical disabilities sometimes convert into literary disability, which can create information divide within society in the most effective manner (Simpson 2009).
In the specific context of Australian society, there are four prime areas of communication technology in which, a clear information divide between physical disabled and non disabled people can be seen in the most effective and efficient manner. These areas are Telephony, Television, Internet, and any other technological device or equipment installed within public and private settings for the purpose for ensuring proper exchange and access of information. These all the crucial sources are the prime measures with the help of which an individual can easily acquire information and have effective communication (Borowski, Encel and Ozanne 2007). However, for physical disabled people, it is not an easy task to use such tools of ICT in the most proficient manner.
They have to face various problems in using these tools effectively. For instance, different problems, such as intellectual in-competencies, Visual disability, hearing problem, depended access of information in the case of emergency, and problems in approaching to the desired ICT tools and technologies such as faxes, ATMs, info kiosks, computers, voting machines, and other type of electronic appliances which are generally used for the purpose of retrieving information, are generally faced by physically disabled people. In addition to this, multilayered disability, i.e. physical disability with lack of effective literary skills can be proved quite critical issues in dealing with the problem of digital divide within the society (Australian Human Rights Commission 2000). It is due to the reason that development of English language proficiency in the person facing physical disability requires some intensive amount of expertise skill and equipments, which cannot be arranged easily.
In this way, it can be seen that there are different crucial issues which are generally faced by physically disabled people to have effective access of information technology related tools and technologies, which have created information divide in the society. However, since disabled people are also one of the important parts of the society, it is not feasible to make them separate from the main stream of the society. For this purpose, it is quite essential for the government and other societal institutions to bridge the gap due to information divide phenomenon prevailing within the society. In regard to this, in the recent period of time, the government of Australia have started to shown its intentions towards ensuring the effective and efficient access of ICT tools to physically challenged people also (Collins 2011).
In this context, the government has focused on providing more effective and advanced technologies for making the disabled people skilled enough to use advanced tools of ICT. In this context, the government has started to upgrade the information communitcion systems such as faxes, telephones, and ATMs installed for public utilities. For the purpose enabling visually impaired people to get information, the government has started to provide information in various forms such as in Braille language, audio or large print form (Soar, Swindell and Tsang 2010). In addition to this, for helping out the non English speaking and literary disabled people, the government has started to use web-based technologies, such as the “babelfish, which is efficient translation software, in public utility information and communication tools.
For the purpose of enhancing access of information for people with hearing or speech impairments, the government has promoted written communication through internet and other new technologies. For this purpose, some special attention is given over training of physically disabled people regarding usage of such new and innovative tools of ICT (Malcolm 2008).
These all the efforts employed by the government is showing the criticality of information divide and the significance of bridging this information divide in the favor of long term sustainability of the society.
On the basis of the arguments made in the presented discussion, it can be indicated that physical disability is one of the core factors that lead to enhance the information divide within the society. It is due to the reason that due to certain physical limitations and constrains, it is not possible for such physically disabled people to have efficient access of new and innovative tools related to information exchange and communication. Owing to this reason, it becomes essential for the local government to have proper considerations and attention over enhancing access of Information by physically disabled people through customized and highly innovative technologies.
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