Universal Access in the Information Society

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 183–188 | Cite as

Broadening our concepts of universal access

  • Mark Warschauer
  • Veronica Ahumada Newhart
Long paper


The universal accessibility movement has focused on solutions for people with physical limitations. While this work has helped bring about positive initiatives for this population, physical disabilities are just one of the many life situations that can complicate people’s ability to fully participate in an information economy and society. Other factors affecting accessibility include poverty, illiteracy, and social isolation. This paper explores how the universal accessibility movement can expand its efforts to reach other diverse populations. Four sets of resources are discussed—physical, digital, human, and social—that are critical for enabling people to use information and communication technology. Examples of how these resources can help people access, adapt, and create knowledge are provided.


Universal access Accessibility Communication Education 


  1. 1.
    Anderson-Inman, L., Horney, M.A.: Supported eText: assistive technology through text transformations. Read. Res. Q. 42(1), 153–160 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Arora, P.: Hope-in-the-Wall? A digital promise for free learning. Br. J. Educ. Technol. 41(5), 689–702 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Beuermann, D.W., Cristia, J., Cruz-Aguayo, Y., Cueto, S., Ofer, M.: Home computers and child outcomes: short-term impacts from a randomized experiment in Peru. NBER Working Paper, 18818. Retrieved from (2013)
  4. 4.
    Castells, M.: End of Millennium. Blackwell, Malden, MA (1998)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Cervantes, R., Warschauer, M., Nardi, B., Sambasivan, N.: Infrastructures for low-cost laptop use in Mexican schools. In: Proceedings from 29th International Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. CHI 2011. ACM (2011)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Cummins, J.: Interdependence of first and second language proficiency in bilingual children. In: Bialystok, E. (ed.) Language Processing in Bilingual Children, pp. 70–89. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1991)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    de Melo, G., Machado, A., Alfonso, M., Viera, M.: Impacto del Plan Ceibal en el apredizaje. Evidencia de la major experiencia OLPC [Impact of Plan Ceibal on learning. Evidence from the largest OLPC program.] Instituto de Economía Documento de Trabajo 13/13 [Institute of the Economy Working Paper #13/13. Universidad de la Republica, Montevideo, Urguay. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from (2013)
  8. 8.
    Donner, J.: Shrinking fourth world? Mobiles, development, and inclusion. In: Katz, J. (ed.) The Handbook of Mobile Communication Studies, pp. 28–42. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA (2008)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Duflo, E., Hanna, R.: Monitoring works. Getting teachers to come to schools. NBER Working Paper No. 11880. Retrieved from (2005)
  10. 10.
    Fowler, G.A., Bariyo, N.: An e-reader revolution for Africa? Wall Str. J. (2012).
  11. 11.
    Gurstein, M.: Community Informatics: Enabling Communities with Information and Communications Technologies. Idea Group, Hershey, PA (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Hasselbring, T.: Udio: a technology-rich literacy experience for students with reading disabilities. Retrieved from (2014)
  13. 13.
    James, J.: Low-cost computers for education in developing countries. Soc. Indic. Res. 103, 399–408 (2011). doi: 10.1007/s11205-010-9708-2w CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Kling, R.: What is social informatics and why does it matter? D-Lib Magazine December 15, 2001, 5(1). Retrieved from (1999)
  15. 15.
    Kling, R., Lamb, R.: IT and organizational change in digital economies: a sociotechnical approach. In: Brynjolfsson, E., Kahin, B. (eds.) Understanding the Digital Economy: Data, Tools, and Research, pp. 295–324. MIT Press, Cambridge (2001)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Kling, R.: Learning about information technologies and social change: the contribution of social informatics. Inf. Soc. 16(3), 1–36 (2000). doi: 10.1080/019722400128284 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Kraemer, K.L., Dedrick, J., Sharma, P.: One Laptop per Child: vision vs. reality. Commun. ACM 52(6), 66–73 (2009). doi: 10.1145/1516046.1516063 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Malamud, O., Pop-Eleches, C.: Home computer use and the development of human capital. NBER Working Paper No. 15814. Retrieved August 3, 2011 from (2010)
  19. 19.
    Keeble, L., Loader, B. (eds.): Community Informatics: Shaping Computer-Mediated Social Networks. Routledge, London (2001)Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Miniwatts Group.: World Internet users and population stats. Retrieved from (2014)
  21. 21.
    Mitra, S.: Minimally evasive education for mass computer literacy. CSI Communications, June, 12–16 (1999)Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Mitra, S.: Self organizing systems for mass computer literacy: findings from the ‘hole in the wall’ experiments. Int. J. Dev. Issues 4(1), 71–81 (2005). doi: 10.1108/eb045849 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Mitra, S., Rana, V.: Children and the Internet: experiments with minimally invasive education in India. Br. J. Educ. Technol. 32(2), 221–232 (2001). doi: 10.1111/1467-8535.00192 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Olson, P.: This simple app could put e-books on millions of phones in the third world. Retrieved from (2013)
  25. 25.
    Pal, J., Patra, R., Nedevschi, S., Plauche, M., Pawar, U.S.: The case of the occasionally cheap computer. Inf. Technol. Int. Dev. 5(1), 49–64 (2009)Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Proctor, C.P., Dalton, B., Ucceli, P., Biancarosa, G., Mo, E., Snow, C.E., Neugebauer, S.: Improving comprehension online (ICON): effects of deep vocabulary instruction with bilingual and monolingual fifth graders. Read. Writ. Interdiscip. J. 24(5), 517–544 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Rose, D.H., Meyer, A.: Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age: Universal Design for Learning. Association of Supervision & Curriculum Development, Alexandria, VA (2002)Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Russell, M., Abrams, L.: Instructional effects of computers for writing: the effect of state testing programs. Teach. Coll. Rec. 106(6), 1332–1357 (2004). doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9620.2004.00381.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Vigdor, J.L., Ladd, H.F., Martinez, E.: Scaling the digital divide: home computer and student technology. Econ. Inq. 52(3), 1103–1119 (2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Walker, R.C., Gordon, A.S., Schloss, P., Fletcher, C.R., Vogel, C., Walker, S.: Visual-syntactic text formatting: theoretical basis and empirical evidence for impact on human reading. In: Paper presented at the IEEE Professional Communication Conference, 2007, Seattle, 1–14. Retrieved from (2007)
  31. 31.
    Walker, S., Schloss, P., Fletcher, C.R., Vogel, C.A., Walker, R.C.: Visual-syntactic text formatting: a new method to enhance online reading. Read. Online 8(6). Retrieved from (2005)
  32. 32.
    Warschauer, M.: Reconceptualizing the digital divide. First Monday July 10, 2002, 7(7). Retrieved from (2002)
  33. 33.
    Warschauer, M.: Social capital and access. Univ. Access Inf. Soc. 2(4), 315–330 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Warschauer, M.: Demystifying the digital divide. Sci. Am. 289(2), 27–42 (2003). doi: 10.1038/scientificamerican0803-42 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Warschauer, M.: Technology and Social Inclusion: Rethinking the Digital Divide. MIT Press, Cambridge (2003)Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Warschauer, M.: Laptops and Literacy: Learning in the Wireless Classroom. Teachers College Press, New York (2006)Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Warschauer, M.: Information literacy in the laptop classroom. Teach. Coll. Rec. 109(11), 2511–2540 (2007)Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Warschauer, M.: Laptops and literacy: a multi-site case study. Pedagogies 3(1), 52–67 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Warschauer, M.: Learning in the Cloud: How (and Why) to Transform Schools with Digital Media. Teachers College Press, New York (2011)Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Warschauer, M.: The digital divide and social inclusion. Am. Q. 6(2), 130–135 (2012)Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Warschauer, M., Ames, M.: Can One Laptop per Child save the world’s poor? J. Int. Aff. 64(1), 33–51 (2010)Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Warschauer, M., Cotten, S.R., Ames, M.: One Laptop per Child birmingham: case study of a radical reform. Int. J. Learn. Media 3(2), 61–76 (2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Warschauer, M., Matuchniak, T.: New technology and digital worlds: analyzing evidence of equity in access, use, and outcomes. Rev. Res. Educ. 34(1), 179–225 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Warschauer, M., Park, Y., Walker, R.: Transforming digital reading with visual-syntactic text formatting. JALT CALL J. 7(3), 255–270 (2011)Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Warschauer, M., Zheng, B., Niiya, M., Cotten, S., Farkas, G.: Balancing the one-to-one equation: equity and access in three laptop programs. Equity Excell. Educ. 47(1), 46–62 (2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Zheng, B., Warschauer, M., Farkas, G.: Digital writing and diversity: the effects of school laptop programs on literacy processes and outcomes. J. Educ. Comput. Res. 48(3), 267–299 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Irvine School of EducationUniversity of CaliforniaIrvineUSA

Personalised recommendations