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People with intellectual disability and the digitization of services
journal contributionposted on 03.05.2021, 05:31 by E van Holstein, I Wiesel, Christine Bigby, B Gleeson
As digital technologies have become ubiquitious in contemporary urban environments, geographers should recognize the co-constitutive role of such technologies in the production of space and highlight the unequal impacts of technologies, infrastructure and code on people's lives. Building on recent developments in digital geography and inequality, this paper highlights highly uneven processes of attunement with technology. Drawing on interviews with people with intellectual disability and urban services staff in Melbourne, Australia, this paper demonstrates that while creating new opportunities for some people with intellectual disability, digitization of services has also produced new barriers to their inclusion in urban spaces. By focusing on three sets of service digitization – electronic payment systems, public transport e-ticketing and public library digitization – we show that the succesfull engagement of people with intellectual disability with digital technologies depends on the alignment of diverse components such as the person's skills and economic resources, the availability and skills of both disability support staff and urban service staff, and favourable responses of bystanders. We argue that the multifaceted alignment that is required for the use of digitized services for people with intellectual disability creates high risk of exclusion as digital delivery is increasingly becoming the default mode for many services. Attention to moments of friction and alignment must be central in future thinking about inequality in digital geography.