MEDICI’s final conference, Digital Inclusion For All, took place on 26-28 January 2021. MEDICI is a pan-European EU-funded project that maps digital inclusion and hosts the MEDICI Knowledge Community.
The primary goal of the conference was to address the challenges of digital exclusion and discuss emerging good practices in the field of digital inclusion in Europe. The conference consisted of three days of presentations and discussions on the theme of better digital inclusion for vulnerable groups in Europe and beyond.
With 34 speakers and over 800 participants from 33 countries, participants had the opportunity to meet practitioners and experts, be inspired by keynote speeches, and learn about different approaches in a series of workshops. Rix co-director Gosia was invited to give a keynote presentation to a parallel session, Integrating older people and people with disabilities in the digital world. This session also included a presentation by Ineke Schuurman, from Belgium, about the Able to Include project.
Gosia took the conference on a brief history tour of Rix and talked about the Living Lab concept and the Participatory Action Research model. She described the digital journey from early digital cameras all the way through to the development of multimedia tools like the Rix Wiki and Multi Me software. She spoke passionately about Multimedia Advocacy and the guiding principle of keeping the person at the centre of everything we do when working with and supporting people with learning disabilities.
In the discussion that followed, Gosia was able to promote the idea of peer-to-peer learning, citing the shining example of Rix team member Ajay Choksi who has continued to develop his excellent peer-to-peer training skills over the past year. When another delegate was inclined to put significant limits on people’s potential to learn by continually referring to their notional ‘mental age’, Gosia was quick to remind everyone that constantly equating a person’s ‘mental age’ with the inability to learn new things overlooks the fact that this adult person will have the life experience of an adult.
“When people are excluded, they lose out and we lose out…this group of people can really contribute to society and they need to be visible”
Gosia also touched on the theme of digital exclusion when asked about the onboarding process of the recent TechForce19 Stay Connected project. Project partners and their respective services found that in many cases people with learning disabilities did not have access to the technology that the rest of us take for granted – smart devices, internet access and a familiarity with the digital environment. As a consequence, people were often excluded from taking part in the project, missing out on the opportunity to connect with others during these challenging times.
Digital inclusion for all, therefore, starts with tangible, practical steps and includes not only the provision of technology and support but also the commitment not to underestimate people’s ability to learn.