Publication Date

January 2006


The 1970s and 1980s saw a rapid take-up in the use of personal computers. During the same time period, society began to move towards providing equity for people with disabilities. As legislators around the world created new disability and Information Technology policies, more people with disabilities were given access to education and the evolving computing tools provided unprecedented educational opportunities. These opportunities were due to the use of new technologies such as outputting of electronic text to voice synthesizers. The provision of assistive technology was not only helpful; it also provided education through a medium that was previously unavailable, particular to the blind and vision impaired. For much of the 1980s the development of text-processing sensory technologies, connected to personal computers, led to a closer equality between the educational services of the able-bodied and people with disabilities. Unfortunately this evolution as not without notable difficulties: issues surrounding the cost of products, the lack of support from large corporations and choice of platform resulted in substantial difficulties for educators in the assessment of appropriate technology. In addition, many of these products became largely redundant in the late-1980s as corporations began to place more emphasis on the Graphical User Interface (GUI). Although the GUI was remarkably successful in allowing the general public to gain better access to personal computing, it’s non-text nature once again caused a digital divide for people with disabilities. Although it is clear that the evolution of the personal computer has had a significant impact on the provision of education for people with disabilities, this paper highlights the historical repetition where innovation is prioritized above e-inclusion.