Digital Outcasts

Kel Smith

Published by

Morgan Kaufmann





Reviewed by

Dr Mick Phythian MBCS, CITP


9 out of 10

Starting off with a set excellent introductory chapters to the worlds of accessibility, disability, demographics and attitudes, including a definition of the term ‘digital outcast’, which I was unaware of, this book is very readable throughout.

Kel Smith is a lecturer in accessibility at Rutgers University and a ‘user experience’ expert and obviously knows his stuff - not just in US terms (although the book can sometimes relate more to that country in legal background), but examples are brought in from across the world.

The US origin may be seen most in the chapter summaries, which meant little to me, and in the models of disability drawn upon, i.e. medical, workplace, moral and cultural (European campaigners might encourage the social model to be emphasised where it is society as a whole, and by its actions, that makes people disabled).

Having said that it makes little difference to the quality of the text as the author throughout encourages the ‘principles of universal design’.

The examples of ‘outcasts’ are not limited to those with disabilities. Smith manages to draw upon the uses of technological innovation in bringing better health to those in ‘food deserts’.

There is, however, no unguarded support for remote patient monitoring (RPM) technologies, so often labelled ‘e-health’, as they need to be fully experience tested by real users before any adoption, and even then a human being might be better suited.

This is a wise book that accepts that disability, like ability, is abounding with nuances and variation, and Smith admits that it is behaviour that has to be focused upon rather than any device. He also covers the difficulties of patent protectionism but I can note that since publication the ‘Speak for Yourself’ case has been settled, and the product is again available.

As the author states - nobody owns accessibility. Kel Smith draws this excellent book to a close with the ethics surrounding the technology, along with current and future developments, but as is underlined throughout, it is down to all of us to bring about inclusive innovation.

Further information: Morgan Kaufmann

November 2013