Access issues arise in terms of:
- usability – online services should be compatible with tools used by disabled people, and advice is available from AbilityNet at https://www.abilitynet.org.uk/expert-resources who also provide advice and support at https://mcmw.abilitynet.org.uk/;
- location – if people need to travel to gain access they are disadvantaged anyway, but if they struggle with mobility they’re at even greater disadvantage – so knowing where local access is available, or providing it directly is important to supporting inclusion. Ideally, of course, people would be able to gain access in their own homes (but see the Kirkton Avenue case study for limitations of home access provision), but they’d still require to be able to gain local access to skills development and problem solving support;
- infrastructure – while rural areas are particularly affected by lack of access to broadband, many urban areas still lack access and suppliers remain uncertain about timescales for solving this (even in Glasgow, where the original reasons for establishing a learning network included lack of support for broadband in impoverished areas like Easterhouse remain in parts). Some housing organisations like West Whitlawburn have established solutions in new housing developments which even after bundled entertainment packages now compete offer cheaper broadband than commercially available;
- cost – the costs of access are often beyond people on low incomes and community solutions are needed to overcome them – the cost concerns apply not only to broadband but to devices for connectivity, and while multi-function mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) are cheaper than personal computers, they support inclusion as consumers rather than producers (as anyone who’s tried to use tablets for editing complex documents will know);
- technology – the rapidly changing nature of technical innovation means that what’s required to be truly included is a moving target, which means that community solutions are often the best means of access for many (see cost considerations above), but which also means that community solutions themselves can struggle to keep up.