Re-Imagining Accessibility with The Rise Of The Creative Class
A Talk By Mark Willis
Wright State University – April 13
Quest for Community 2007 Conference
Proposal Narrative (030207): Richard Florida's 2002 book, The Rise of the Creative Class, argues that human creativity is the engine of future technological innovation and economic growth. Florida emphasizes diversity as a key factor in fostering the kinds of creativity that can power an economy, particularly in recruiting and retaining highly creative workers. According to Florida , ““Hiring for diversity, once a matter of legal compliance, has become a matter of economic survival because creativity comes in all colors, genders and personal preferences.”
Although disability is obvious in its omission from this sketch of the diversity mix, it clearly has a place in the creative ethos envisioned by The Rise of the Creative Class . The goals of this talk at Quest for Community are twofold: 1) to articulate the book's implications for people with disabilities; and 2) to re-imagine what accessibility could mean in a new ethos that strives to enable diversity and creativity.
The talk's perspective on accessibility is grounded in a blind knowledge worker's experience with lifelong learning, literacy, and access to information technology. It begins with a story illustrating how cultural practices, not just enabling technologies, shape the work of accessibility for blind people. The talk proceeds to examine how one new Internet technology, RSS (Really Simple Syndication), can transform access to information for blind and sighted people alike. This technology was created to solve a problem all of us face, information overload in an “attention economy.” RSS exemplifies a new generation of accessibility solutions that arise from widespread creative work rather than specific legal mandates. It points the way to open-source solutions to information accessibility that are analogous to universal design solutions in architectural accessibility.
The talk concludes with two assertions about Richard Florida's new creative ethos. 1) Without spurning the legal framework that supports accessibility, including fair use in copyright law and reasonable accommodation in disability law, it is time to look beyond rights-based strategies for expanding the means and meanings of accessibility. 2) People with disabilities are actively engaged in the work of making adaptations and negotiating accommodations. This, too, is creative work and its energies, insights, and experiences need to flourish in any vision of an emerging Creative Age.