Digital inclusion - or, is the Internet for everyone?
What exactly is "inclusion"?
Pretty much all of us have come across the term "inclusion" in recent years. The actual meaning of the word is "to be included within a whole" and incorporates the idea that everyone, regardless of sex, abilities, skills and preferences, is a self-determined part of the community. If you want to learn about inclusion, you can find more information here (Youth Portal) and on the website of the Amt der Beauftragten der Bundesregierung für die Belange behinderter Menschen (Federal Government Commissioner for Matters Relating to Disabled Persons).
Inclusion on the Web
The Internet makes active participation possible for more and more people. You can quickly give your opinion, receive unbelievable amounts of information in next to no time, and buy things easily and quickly. In this context, digital inclusion means that all people have the same access to the Internet. But this is easier said then done, because it's not just about access, but also about the way websites are structured and texts are written. This is referred to as "barrier-free access" and includes technical accessibility, which means that the Internet is fully accessible to all users, regardless of the kind of browser or the hardware they use (computer model, smartphone etc.). It also includes accessibility with regard to web design - for example, people with visual impairment need to be able to increase letter size or contrast.
Why is this important?
It may seem a bit over the top, considering that most users are fine with the Internet as it is. But the whole point is that it should be accessible for everyone. To make this possible, there are more and more websites offering barrier-free access. You can find some examples here: http://www.biene-award.de/preistraeger/.
A survey called »Chancen und Risiken des Internets der Zukunft aus Sicht von Menschen mit Behinderungen« (The Internet of the future: opportunities and risks as seen by people with disabilities) demonstrated, amongst other things, that people with disabilities make extensive use of the Internet, and especially Web 2.0, which enables them to gain better access to community and social activities.
This would be so simple - but where is the money coming from?
Inclusive media can be quite expensive, especially when you want to run training sessions or make your website barrier-free. A list of financial support programs - regional as well as nationwide - is available here: Medienkompetenzportal NRW.