Congratulations to Vidhya Y. (co-founder of Vision Empower and M.Sc. Digital Society alum, class of 2017) on the acceptance of a paper she co-authored at the 26th ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing. The paper titled ‘Advocacy as Access Work: How People with Visual Impairments Gain Access to Digital Banking in India’ was accepted under the theme of accessibility at the conference.
Research in accessibility and assistive technology often assumes that technology is within easy reach, that is, people with disabilities are able to obtain technologies so long as they are accessible. As a result, less is understood about the challenges that people with disabilities face in obtaining technology in the first place and how they work around these challenges. We reduce this gap by examining the technology access challenges of people with visual impairments in India in the context of digital banking. Through a qualitative study consisting of 30 interviews, we find that participants routinely encountered social and technical challenges that made it difficult to access and use digital banking. To address these challenges, people with visual impairments engaged in advocacy work which consisted of five dimensions: 1) creating awareness, 2) demonstrating competence, 3) escalation, 4) gathering support, and 5) seeking sighted help. We expand on the idea of advocacy as a form of access work performed by people with visual impairments to secure and maintain access to digital banking.