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The range of people who have disabilities is very broad. There are a lot of people who suffered from the disability; however, most people do not know the definition of disability. This situation happens frequent in the society, so first this report will give out the answer of what are disability and its definition.
Twenty years ago, people think of those people who have a serious physical injury as disabled people. Sullivan (1991; cited in Welham 2006) begins to consider disabled people into from the individual into the society perspective. He indicates: "The medical model with its individualized, psychologized and medicalized account of disability has been rejected in favour of a sociological account that views disability as an oppressive social creation. The focus shifts from individual impairment to the disabling effects of social organization and structure designed around and for non-disabled people." Social theorists of disability now give out the definition of disability into two-fold classification:
1. Physical: lacking some part or lose all the limb, organism or mechanism of the body.
2. Mental impairments: people who with learning disabilities and mental ill or social restriction cause them not to be accepted by the mainstream society (Equality Commission, 2007)
These new definition change the focus of disability from individual and consider it though the whole society. In the past, people only consider those people who lost their arms, legs or part of their body as disability, but there are still many people cannot get the treatment and welfare of persons with disabilities. Those people have impairments and cannot get their rights from the social organisations. Now though the new definition of disability, many people realize they are disabled. In addition, from this definition, the word "disability" always comes with social barriers, such the disabled people cannot be accepted by the companies or organisations, even these disabled people can do the work like normal people.
3. The Prevalence of Disabilities in United Kingdom
Through recent surveys and researches, there are already about 11 million disabled adults who includes limiting long standing illness in UK, the most important is this data is up to 20% of the population (Papworth Trust, 2010). Among all the disabled people in the UK, about 17% people were born with disabilities. Most of disabled people became disabled during their working lives; this number reaches to 83%. Acquired brain injury is the largest cause of disability amongst the working age group (Papworth Trust, 2010).
InÂ peopleÂ with disability or long-term illness, the elderlyÂ accounted for most of them. According to the Papworth Trust (2010)'s report, 2.1% of 16-19 years old people are recorded as having a disability. Almost three out of ten people between the ages of 50-59 have a disability or long-term illness and this figure increases to 78% at the age of 85 or over.
4. ChangesÂ inÂ attitudesÂ towardsÂ people with disability
"In the long-term, we can look forward to a time when disabled people's needs are mainstreamed and attitudes have changed so that disabled people are afforded full equality in society" (Cabinet Office: Prime Minister's Strategy Unit, 2004; cited in Deal 2006). This statement shows the British government has a long-term plan for 'equal treatment for people with disability', although not all persons with disability got their equal treatment but it is undeniable that the status of disabled people has greatly improved.
4.1 The social status of disabled people
In the past, peoples' attitude to disabled people was not good; because they thought the disabled people depend on the society to help them to change their living condition and hindered the development of the society. Meanwhile, many people think that the disabled people are social burden that they cannot do the work like normal people, which is very despising disabled people. Now disabled people's position in the society had a very big enhancement, people have begun to respect the disabled people, especially those who have made contribution to the society. When they meet disabled people with difficulties in life, they would be happy to help them.
Society's attitude toward disabled people is not only reflected in ideological, how to improve the life of people with disability is also very important. This can be fully reflected in technology. In recent years, the technology products for disabled people are getting more and more, from hearing-aid to Built-in hearing-aid, from prosthesis to manipulatorÂ arm, it is all designed for disabled people to improve their life or in other words, it is all designed for eliminate the estrangement between disabled and normal people. Because of these high-technology helped them to feel like normal person.
4.1.2 Employment Rate
The employment for disabled people has always a problem, not only the reason of education restriction, and social discrimination in the disabled people is also an obstruction. Now the social attitude toward disabled is different from past, it encourages more people with disability to participate in the work. Since 2007 to 2009, the employment rate for people with disability has raised from 48% to 49.7% (Duignan, 2010). Although it only increased 1%, however the number of disabled people are increasing every year (10 million in 2008 (The Office for National Statistics 2008, cited in MPH Group no date) and 11 million in 2010 (Papworth Trust, 2010)), this also has a large number of people. Differently a report from Poverty (2010) showed that the unemployed rate of people with a work-limiting disability has increased from 2007 to 2009, and the employed rate as the same as before. ???
4.2 Government Attitudes
4.2.1 Accessibility facilities construction
In Britain, with the changing of attitudes towards disabled people, the accessibility facilities constructions are getting more mature, whether in London or in small town, disabled people are able to go every place they want without any misgiving. On the train, it is easy to find a seat which is set for the disabled, and leave the enough space for people to place the wheelchair; City buses are generally available for wheelchair access; all the parking lot set the most convenient berth for disabled people for free, no matter how shortage of the parking ramps is, there are always have free parking places for disabled people. Shopping malls basically equipped with a special elevator for the disabled people; service centers and tourist spots have wheelchair for hire; all the roads and crossings have ramps for the wheelchair to access.
4.2.2 Government support
UK Government provided well accessibility facilities construction for the disabled people; they provided financial support and benefits as well for low income or no income disabled people.
a)Â Financial support
British government provides financial support to allÂ disabled people in UK, in order to reduce the burden of them or their families. For example, people with disability who is under 65can apply for the Disability Living Allowance. Disability Living Allowance has two parts, a care componentÂ (who need to be look after)and a mobility component(people who has no walking ability, or hard to take walk, or need someone for help when take a walk) (Directgov, no date a). Attendance Allowance is a support for disabled people whose age is 65 or older. Different from Disability Living Allowance, the range of Attendance Allowance is wider. It is not only for people who has a physical disability, but also for the people who has mental disability (Directgov, no date b). The people who with disability which influence the work ability can get the Employment and Support Allowance (Directgov, no date c). The UK government also support disabled student in higher education. They have no necessary to pay for extra equipments because of their disability (Directgov, no date d).
Disabled people can get benefits for their daily life from government as well. For the people with disabilities who live independently, UK government provides corresponding life equipments for them, such as 'stair lift, ceiling hoists, powered or manual height-adjustable beds or powered leg-lifters for people who have difficulty lifting their legs into bed' (Directgov, no date e).
UK Government also support any disabled who is over 18 on reducing the Council Tax. It means people who with disability can live a larger house or apartment without paying more Council Tax (Directgov, no date f). For low income and live independently disabled people, government provide Housing Benefit for them to pay all or part of the house rent (Directgov, no date g). Meanwhile if disabled people have a reasonable and practical reason to adapt their house to enable them to continue to live, they can get help from Disabled Facilities Grants (Directgov, no date h). Even a blind or sight impaired person can get reduction on the cost of a TV license (Directgov, no date h).
UK Government also provides the considerate Vehicles and transport scheme for disabled people. Some of disabled people (blind and Dyspraxia people) can get a Blue Badge. Blue Badge is a right that people with disability can park their car in the free parking space which is only for disabled people or park their car for lower price (Directgov, no date i).
4.2.3 Legal protection
The government had already passed the laws to protect the rights of disabled people under the Equality Act 2010 (it replaced most of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995) (Directgov, no date j), which carrying out the functions should have due regard to the need to: promote positive attitudes towards disabled people; and encourage participation by disabled people in public life. The laws are made to give the equality of the opportunity for the disabled people, eliminate discrimination and disability related harassment to disabled people, promote the positive attitude to them, Encourage disabled people join in public life, Take into account disabled people's disabilities, even where that involves treating disabled people more favourably. This Act also protected disabled peoples' rights more effectively.
5. Impact of Information Technology on disabled People
Education for the disabilities is an indispensable part of country's education.Â Although the UK government attaches great importance to the development of education of persons with disabilities, for various reasons it is still not optimistic.Â
5.1.1The Education Status of disabled people in UK
According to the Papworth Trust (2010)'s report, there are 23% of disabled people have no qualifications compared to 9% of non-disabled people. Only 29% of disabled people have a qualification higher than Level 2(Level 2 is the level of General Certificate Secondary Education Grads A*-C (Directgov, 2011)), compared to 82.2% of non-disabled people. These data show that people with disabilities generally got low level of education.Â Development of education mainly depends on individual and environment, "people with disabilities go to university difficult" is the major issue of education, not because people with disabilities do not want to, but it is the current education system, teaching facilities and teaching conditions.Â In other words, the society has not provided a barrier-free educational environment and has not created a life for disabled people to develop and realize their own value environment.
5.1.2Information Technology for People with Disabilities in Education
a) Online distance learning for disabled people
Online distance education is a new teaching model using Internet media Technologies to help teachers. It is different from the traditional education so students can study at their own time at the any place they like. At the same time teachers can share his knowledge by using the Internet, computers, interactive video conferencing, audio and text with students (California Distance Learning Project, 2005). Distance education provided more opportunities for person who want to learn but cannot get a decent education at traditional Universities by some reasons (Ommerborn, 1998).
Features and Advantages of Online Distance Education for Disabilities
Online distance learning is an ideal way for people with disabilities to get educated (Williamson, 2010).Â Online distance education is different with Traditional Education; it is a model mix with voice, text, images, data, interactive multimedia applications, which can stimulate a variety of senses of students. This method used to eliminate defects in the function of the students to meet the special demands of the students. Obviously, it is an appropriate model for the disabled people. Online distance education can break the traditional education to a better one. Such asÂ the blind, theÂ general educationÂ to travel long distancesÂ to school, it is inconvenient,Â waste of resources,Â difficult to achieveÂ life-longÂ learning;Â however the distance education do not have these problem. The network brings them to the tutors. This kind of education method not only concentrate on the knowledge education (learn basic theory from the textbook), but also focusing more on the interactivity and effectiveness of education, teacher and students can interact with each other, mainly though the ask and answer, the conversation between teacher and student to achieve the goal of teaching. Internet remote education breaks the limitation of traditional education (time and space) (Wang, 2009), and can help most of the disabled people, so it become an ideal way of education for the disabled people.
b) Assistive Technology for disabilities in the classroom
Computers now are the indispensable tool in the society. It brings convenience to most of the people; it includes proportion of disabled people. Assistive Technology is the technology that designed for disabled people. It can help people who are disabled to do things or use computers easier and faster (http://www.sc.edu/scatp/cdrom/atused.html, 2011). Software (screen reader software, voice recognition software), hardware and peripheral device (input devices, output devices) are all included in it to help students. For example, student who is blind may use software which can read texts on the screen; a visually impaired student can use the software which will enlarge text on the screen; Student with limited hand function may use an enlarged computer keyboard or aÂ special mouse to control the computer; Student who got hearing problem may use the software that can transform contents of teacher spoke directly into words. (University of Washington, no date). Teachers can use these assistive technologies flexibly to help them built their strengths and overcome their weaknesses.
Every student in university needs some methods in order to communicate with others. Students who are deaf-mute or whose speech is not fluent can benefit from using some type of software on computers, such as iCommunicator. iCommunicator is aÂ two-way communication software, it can not only transfer the spoken English in to text and sign language on screen immediately for deaf-mute people, but also can turn the typed words into voice for blinds or visually impaired students (Croghan, 2007).
Vision is also a major way to get educated. Most of the method for assisting with vision problems includes use some software to increase contrast or enlarge text on the screen. For example, ZoomText or MAGic, they are used by people with visual impairments to get information on computer screens. The software enlarges information on the screen by incremental factors (2 x magnifications, 3x up to 20x magnification) (Adaptive Technology Center for NJ Colleges, 2010).
Other Assistive Technologies
Assistive technologies are not only linked with the computers, also often used in disabled students' study life. Recently a new class of assistive product was designed by Livescribe Company is calledÂ Pulse SmartPen. The Pulse Pen is different from other pens, it have 4G of audio recording space, equivalent to 400 hours of audio. Students can use special notebook that matched with the pen to coincide contents of the recorder and by tapping on the notebooks on the page with the tip of the pen; audio can be linked to a handwriting note and then replay by tapping on the note at a later time. While the pen connects to the computer that all the audio content can be transferred to the documents. In fact, this assistive product is matured; the company launched a number of educational applications for the pen, it even includes a Braille talking Periodic Table of the elements. In other words, this is a pen which can meet requirements of many disabled people (Lubetkin, 2010).
Nowadays voice recognition software, screen reader software, and other types of electronic data transfer technologies are expanding the range of assistive devices. It will increase the number of disabled people who want to access distance education. (Workbridge, 1991; cited in Welham 2006)
There are several reasons for why so less people with disability have been employed. It is not only the reasons from education, but more are about the work environment and technical conditions of equipment. The attitudes changes are mentioned in the previous section, so the greatest challenge for many disabled people to reintegrate into work.
5.2.1 The proportion of people with disabilities work in UK
Education and employment has a close relationship (Sullivan 1991; cited in Welham 2006). That is the reason why disabled people got such a low employment rate. There are almost 1.2 million disabled people who are available or want to work in the UK now; however only 49.7% of the people with disability are employed compare with those people who are non-disabled this rate was 79.1%. (Papworth Trust, 2010). Meanwhile, non-disabled people are nearly twice as likely as people with disability to be employed at working age (Warwickshire County Council, 2010).
Teleworking helps disabled people to overcome the convenience problem. Working at home enables people with disability to operate in a comfortable environment which is more suitable for their specific needs, for example, blind people know the layout of their home and can find everything easily. Similarly, the layout of tables and documents they want. Another benefit is the flexibility working hours. It is important for the people who get tire quickly.
b) Video conferencing
6.1 Training and Technical Support
6.2 Barriers to Access
Disabled People lack of skills of network. In the traditionalÂ condition,Â persons with disabilitiesÂ receivedÂ lessÂ education, especially the skills of using computers;Â they often needÂ help from others to accept the education. Such as downloadingÂ software andÂ software applicationsÂ operating,Â therefore,Â restrictedÂ TeachingÂ development and that is the main limitation of network education.
Although in recent years the online distance education has seen great development, it still cannot meet the demand large number of the disabled people in UK. Perhaps it is just a question of time. Now there are still many disabled people cannot access the education by online distance education.