What does disability mean to young people, and how can we ensure disability doesn't negate accessibility?
Eddie, aged 14, has a physical disability called Multiple Hereditary Exostoses. This means ordinary teenage pastimes, such as playing football with friends, are virtually impossible.
As the workshop facilitator however, he certainly didn’t linger on his disability or its manifestation in chronic pain and fatigue; instead stating that having a disability either made you very lucky or unlucky. Either way, it blessed him with resilience.
At the age of 10, Eddie first got his hands on a Rasperry Pi and began coding different gadgets. He demonstrated the “Big Red Button” - every time you hit the box, it produces a new random noise. From Scratch to Python, Eddie engages with the process of Digital Making in order to find freedom from physical boundaries and explore a fascinating new discipline.
As an avid RasperryPi fan, Eddie learned of the Rasperry Jam community (RasperryPi coding meet-ups) and established his own Rasperry Jam in his home town Bridport. The overriding aim of his work is to enlarge the coding community, encourage Digital Making and utilise these for a positive escape. Video games aren’t actively pursuing a positive escape, he explains. Rather than engaging in passive escapism, Eddie wants to help young people with disabilities branch out into Digital Making.
After introducing his background and objectives with the TechFun4All initiative, as participants we then went on to discuss various questions surrounding accessibility and technology. What are the challenges facing people with disabilities in accessing technology? What does the wider context look like? And do we know of any solutions right now to promote accessibility?
A prominent theme throughout the discussions seemed to be the idea of equal accessibility. Rather than creating structures to singly help people with disabilities, instead we should be creating an environment within technology that enables all people to get involved. This means people with disabilities, both physical and otherwise, BMAE students, and women.
If we want to truly succeed in creating an inclusive and accessible world, we all have a part to play. Whether we're directly involved in the technology sphere or not, it's vital we promote these values and help young people overcome challenges, just as Eddie so perfectly illustrated.