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Estonia: an uneven journey towards inclusive society

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A brief presentation (15 min) at the HYVITE 2007 symposium in Tampere - on the changing situation of people with disabilities in Estonia as well as IT solution as a way out of exclusion. Features some schemes from my 1999 PhD thesis (in full available at http://www.kakupesa.net/kakk/thesis)

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Estonia: an uneven journey towards inclusive society

  1. 1. Estonia: an uneven journey towards inclusive society Kaido Kikkas Tallinn University Estonian Union of People with Mobility Impairments Estonian Society for Information Technology kaido.kikkas@kakupesa.net http://www.kakupesa.net HYVITE symposium, Tampere 25.04.07
  2. 2. Back to the society <ul><li>People with disabilities: a long way from ancient Sparta to today's integration </li></ul><ul><li>Segregation vs integration </li></ul><ul><li>Former Eastern bloc – 'society of universal happiness', no sub-standard people </li></ul><ul><li>Gradual return to society during the nineties </li></ul><ul><li>NB! At first, both sides were unprepared </li></ul><ul><li>The road goes on </li></ul>
  3. 3. Splendours and miseries <ul><li>Estonia: widely praised for transition success </li></ul><ul><li>Rapid leapfrogging upwards </li></ul><ul><li>Liberal economy, good standing in technology BUT </li></ul><ul><li>Seriously neglected social security during the first years of independence </li></ul><ul><li>Still evident lack of disability access, giving way to other related problems </li></ul>
  4. 4. The circle Kikkas 1999 Low level of education Low level of employment Low social status Limited role in society, neglect Limited access to different parts of society
  5. 5. The circle revisited Low level of education Low level of employment Low social status Limited role in society, neglect Limited access to different parts of society @ Extra means of access Distance education Telework Means of politics and PR Powerful, accessible medium Kikkas 1999
  6. 6. ICT? Sure! But how...? <ul><li>The typical Eastern European post-Communism paradox: hi-tech of the West, social guarantees of the developing countries </li></ul><ul><li>1999 survey among Estonian people with disabilities: ~ 75% of the respondents could not afford a PC. The situation has since improved but not quite radically (and the knowledge vacuum is even worse). Typical monthly disability allowance is still a bit over 100 EUR </li></ul><ul><li>Assistive ICT solutions are still rare and expensive – the ones that need it the most are actually the least aware of the new possibilities </li></ul><ul><li>'Typical' software is much too expensive </li></ul>
  7. 7. Not that bad, actually <ul><li>New PCs are still a bit expensive – but the state of the art is pushed by entertainment solutions, not workhorses </li></ul><ul><li>Usable for E-services does not need to be new </li></ul><ul><li>(Commercial) software is expensive – there is a good news: you do not have to pay tons of good money to be able to work with computers. Yes, you can LEGALLY use a computer without MS Windows - the computer used for this presentation has no commercial/proprietary software installed (no Windows since 2000) </li></ul><ul><li>Inexpensive hardware + free software = better access to many services via Internet => inclusion </li></ul>
  8. 8. New media and changing times <ul><li>Some points on today's ICT: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>establishing a (web-based) newspaper can mean a couple of clicks at Blogger.com or similar place </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>participation in networked distance learning is possible with just a mainstream PC </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>having a network server takes a mid-level broadband connection, an old PC box and Linux </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>social software applications effectively fight prejudice </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Actually all these are great tools for inclusion and equalisation! </li></ul><ul><li>There have been first projects on refurbishing used computers for people with disabilities (along with providing necessary training) </li></ul>
  9. 9. Some landmarks <ul><li>1992 – first computer courses for PwD at TUT </li></ul><ul><li>1995-2001 – first Estonian server especially targetted towards people with disabilities; a good community emerges </li></ul><ul><li>The Old Town talker (chatroom) 1995 – hosted by a man with a profound impairment </li></ul><ul><li>1995 – Rehabilitation Technology Lab at TUT </li></ul><ul><li>around 2000 - E- and M-services make many formerly inaccessible services usable; the broadband and WiFi breakthrough </li></ul><ul><li>2000-2003 – the THINK FP6 project </li></ul><ul><li>2006 - http://liikumisvabadus.invainfo.ee </li></ul>
  10. 10. Examples of e-services <ul><li>Online banking – used by a majority of people </li></ul><ul><li>Declaration of taxes – 50+ % were done online this year </li></ul><ul><li>E-voting – first official use in this year's elections of Estonial Parliament </li></ul><ul><li>Media – practically all newspapers and most radio stations are available online </li></ul><ul><li>All of them are also very important for people with disabilities </li></ul>
  11. 11. Where it still hurts <ul><li>Assistive IT solutions still almost unknown – there is no easy way neither to test things out nor to obtain the devices </li></ul><ul><li>Web standards are still largely ignored => people with disabilities are the first to get hit </li></ul><ul><li>The Liikumisvabadus web team is now doing the work that should have been done long ago </li></ul><ul><li>Too little attention on informing educators and employers on disability-related issues </li></ul><ul><li>Decision-makers are vulnerable to lobbyist brainwashing (like everywhere else) </li></ul>
  12. 12. Conclusion <ul><li>E-Society has enabled many people but not so many that it has potential for </li></ul><ul><li>Awareness and attitudes still need some work – on both sides </li></ul><ul><li>But the information society does have great potential for better inclusion of minorities, especially by providing tools for self-empowerment (provided that unnecessary obstacles are avoided) </li></ul><ul><li>The situation is splendid but not hopeless... :-) </li></ul>
  13. 13. Main rule: you have to be a bit crazy do everything “unsuitable for people with disabilities”
  14. 14. Thank you for your attention Note: the illustration above (from the THINK project) is drawn by Mr. Meelis Luks, a foot-painting Estonian artist – see http://www.lux.ee) The slides will be available at SlideShare under the Creative Commons BY-SA license (http://www.slideshare.net/UncleOwl)

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