Family Friendly Tech and Advocacy: Tech Psychologist's Guide by Dr. Jeanne Beckman

Family Friendly Tech and Advocacy: Tech Psychologist's Guide   by Dr. Jeanne Beckman
Finally, a book to help families find the right technology to accommodate reading disorders (dyslexia) and other disabilties! ISBN 978-1-60264-089-4

How to purchase my book

To purchase through Virtual Bookworm (my publisher) you can click Virtual Bookworm Publisher: Tech Psychologist's Guide or
Amazon no longer allows Illinois professionals to get credit for referrals to Amazon due to a sales tax dispute. I will be referring to Powell's in the near future.

What is that TinyURL notation that you see in my blog? For those who use a screen reader, the link that is hidden behind words like Tech Psychologist Guide remains hidden. However, screen readers can read aloud the website address, or URL, if it was produced by Also, sometimes these addresses are so long that they wrap around several lines or overlap into colored areas of a website that obscure the actual address. Intrigued? You can create your own tinyurl's at

Friday, January 4, 2008

Inclusion spurring innovation

In a thoughtful article, Jutta Treviranus spoke of the compelling need to nurture inclusion in order to let society reach its full potential.

Inclusion promotes innovation
September 12, 2007

During his recent installation, Lieutenant Governor David Onley committed to work toward an accessible Ontario. He defined accessibility or inclusion as "nothing more, but absolutely nothing less, than enabling people with disabilities to reach their full potential."

I would add that inclusion is needed to let a society reach its full potential. Enlightened self-interest should compel us toward greater inclusion. Even if we ourselves never have a disability, we can be selfishly motivated to make society more accessible.

With the shift to a knowledge economy, we now realize that the commodities of value are innovation and creative new ideas. But we forget that true innovation occurs at the margins of any domain. Startling new inventions have never come about by designing for the norm. The majority initially experiences innovation as uncomfortable, foreign and even strange. A field is prodded to leap forward by the introduction of disruptive notions, by perspectives that do not fit in, by unpredictable inspirations that burst our neat categories.

And yet we have succumbed to the tyranny of the popular, the typical, the average, or the norm.

Product design is guided by perceptions of "the typical housewife," "the average genXer" or "the average busy executive." We train educators to teach to the norm. Researchers use simulations of the normative patient. Even the burgeoning Web 2.0 propagates the value of popularity above all else (topics or items with the most hits rise to the top, the less popular topics disappear).

None of this means that what is popular is stagnant, but even dramatic shifts in opinion and political leanings follow a typical pendular pattern, reactively swinging back and forth. Skewing the pendulum in a completely new direction can be an antidote to the "same old same old."

Inclusive design enables, invites and supports the participation of individuals and groups representing the full range of human diversity with respect to culture, language, gender, age, class, ability and other forms of human difference. It questions and stretches our restrictive conceptions of the user, the worker, the learner, the educator, the professional. No one pictured a lieutenant governor with a disability when Queen's Park was built.

Inclusive design has contributed to such innovations as the typewriter, the telephone, email, the PDA, speech synthesis and recognition. All these innovations were motivated by a need to address the needs of people with disabilities.

While exclusion leads to a vicious cycle of disenfranchisement, lack of self-esteem, under-education, unemployment, poverty and social instability, inclusion leads to a virtuous cycle of new ideas, flexibility and adaptability. Inclusive design makes room for contributions from people who live a different and more challenging experience and must hone incredible resourcefulness as a daily necessity.

Is it any wonder that over the centuries people with disabilities are over-represented among the annals of true innovators. Consider how impoverished we would be without the contributions of Einstein, Beethoven, Edison, Roosevelt, da Vinci or Stephen Hawking.

This week, more than 22 nations will gather here in Toronto, one of the world's most diverse cities, in a country that prides itself on its inclusive practices, to develop an international agenda for the inclusive design of e-learning and to create an inclusive design curriculum.

We should feel proud and fortunate that David Onley will open the forum this evening at Toronto City Hall.

Jutta Treviranus is director and founder of the Adaptive Technology Resource Centre at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Information Studies.

Have you or your family members had difficulty in obtaining appropriate inclusion at school and at work? Please contact Dr. Jeanne Beckman and tell her your story: email her at or visit her website at

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