COVID-19 and blind spaces_Submission.pdf
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Permanent link to Research Commons versionhttps://hdl.handle.net/10289/14807
In this chapter we, as Indigenous (Māori) and non-Indigenous (Pākehā) academics, practitioners, and disability advocates critically examine the experiences of people who are blind, deafblind, low vision and vision impaired (BLV) during the COVID-19 lockdown of Aotearoa New Zealand. We pay particular attention to the ways in which access (or lack thereof) to digital spaces facilitated experiences of social inclusion (and exclusion). Digital connectivity was heavily relied upon during lockdown in Aotearoa New Zealand to disseminate health information and to connect people socially. The use of digital technologies during lockdown extended the interpersonal space of the home beyond the physicality of the urban home people were confined to, drawing people together across the country and creating a sense of shared experience. However, these experiences were not shared equally across the citizenry. Conversations during lockdown with disability advocates and practitioners working with BLV persons identified that. For example, the government website on COVID19 was initially inaccessible for BLV persons and there were assumptions of digital accessibility and literacy within the domestic space of the home. Taken together, these exacerbated existing inequities for BLV persons, some of whom experience multiple domains of exclusion (for example, Indigenous BLV persons with reduced access to services and for whom English is their second language). Drawing on Lefebvre’s (1991) work on the dialectics of space and Lewin’s (1936/2013) construction of the life-space, we consider the interplay of space and experience with regards to the digital and physical space(s) available and inhabited during the shared social experience of lockdown. We discuss possibilities for co-creating socially inclusive (digital) spaces of belonging that reflect and refract life-space relational connections across social groups. Our reflections on the lockdown experience include opportunities post-pandemic for policy makers and practitioners to address digital accessibility inequities.
© 2021 Policy Press.This is the author's accepted version.