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Empowering all qualitative researchers with technology

Written by Dr. Alexandra James
November 05, 2019

Technology can be a tool that empowers and benefits everyone

Qualitative researchers devote themselves to going beyond the numbers, to digging deeper than the black and white quantitative data to discover the stories and meanings behind the words.

As qualitative researchers, we dedicate ourselves to unearthing stories. We acknowledge the importance of narrative and seek the kind of knowledge that is gained from understanding the experiences of individuals.

In an attempt to present the richest, most complete picture, it helps to include the perspectives and work of a diverse set of researchers. Inclusion is necessary for representing the full range of experiences we seek to study.
 
Equitable, universal access empowers a diverse range of researchers and ensures we generate innovative ideas and a variety of insights, inspired by a broad spectrum of experiences.  The barriers that once existed for people with a disability to access the essential tools of our trade are being torn down every day. Our communities are becoming more and more empowered by increasingly accessible research tools. 

How inclusive technology and assistive technology is working

Developments in assistive technology continue to provide more opportunities for inclusion. We are now at a point where technology can provide real support and allow for inclusion and universal access.
 
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) published by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) provides standards to ensure that online content meets the needs of all individuals. Universal design, also referred to as inclusive design, is a central process for ensuring that software is created in a way that meets the needs of all users. 
 
However, there is still much work to be done. According to Sheryl Burgstahler from the University of Washington, a survey revealed that of the top companies responsible for producing pre-college instructional software only 2 of the 19 were even aware of issues around accessibility.  

Assistive technology can benefit society as a whole

These technological advancements will empower everyone, and we all stand to gain. The universal design process has not only resulted in groundbreaking developments for users with accessibility issues (it is estimated that one billion people worldwide have a disability) but provided benefits to all users.
 
For instance, the same speech recognition technology that radically changes the way vision-impaired people are able to use technological devices also assists in generating speech to text transcription technology, which could benefit anyone. 
 
Universal design has ensured companies are attentive to inclusive hiring practices; recent Microsoft developments, such as their Seeing AI app, are a testament to the possibilities generated by adherence to these processes. 
 
By creating software that enables equal opportunity in the workplace we foster an inclusive community, rich with a diversity of ideas, and encourage corporations to adhere to standards of accessibility and universal design.
 
By bringing different people with different thoughts and different life experiences together, we can better approach and solve the problems we face as researchers.  And by approaching all of the challenges we face as researchers and as a society, we are better able to discover and uncover those advancements that benefit society as a whole. 
 
For more discussions on best practices, join NVivo on LinkedIn.