By Emma Major
(Editor: Emma penned this a week or so ago - apologies for not getting it onto our blog sooner, Emma!)
We started a new series here last month in which we are speaking to individuals about their experiences of digital inclusivity and accessibility. I've been inspired by the people who have shared so far so thought I'd join in.
Here's my good, bad and ugly of digital inclusivity and accessibility.
Mid October was a great time for online inclusivity with two great conferences.
The first conference was the Diocese of Oxford's Disability Conference led by KT Tupling. There were talks from a huge range of disabled people who are making things more accessible and inclusive for everyone.
The second conference was the tenth (Still) "Calling from the Edge" conference organised by inclusive church and St Martin in the Fields in London. This conference was also led by disabled people for disabled people.
The reason I'm highlighting these two conferences as good (excellent) examples of digital inclusiveness is that they were both organised and led by disabled people for disabled people and those who want to be more inclusive. Attendees were asked about their access needs and everything was done to ensure that everyone could participate.
There were lots of flexibility in how you could join in: with bsl and captioning, descriptions of visuals and lots of breaks. There was no pressure if, like me, you could only do half a day before being exhausted and everything is available to connect with afterwards.
The recordings of both these conferences will be released very soon so look out for that.
The Bad and The Ugly
Having celebrated the good I want to remind you what the bad and the ugly of digital accessibility looks like:
images without description
videos without captions
zoom meetings without any breaks
meetings without any clear agendas.
But even worse that that…. It looks like:
online services vanishing
zoom church vanishing
disabled people being abandoned and forgotten.
We feared this would happen, though we hoped and prayed it wouldn't, but it did.
I call out all those churches which came online at the start of the pandemic, thought they were doing something new and wonderful by going online (when lots of disabled people had been doing it for years) and have now closed down all their online provision.
We see you abandoning those who are vulnerable, we feel you not caring about those with disabilities, we hear you talking about the love of God but not actually living it out. It's bad and it's ugly, but thankfully the good shines brighter.
As a community of disabled and chronically ill people, in connection with wonderful churches who get it and have stayed online, we will keep being the hands