Briefing Note: Accessibility/Languages/Tech: Advancing language justice for persons with visual disabilities

Hello, welcome to our work aimed at understanding people with visual impairments’ relationship to technology and language. This document is addressed to participants of the “Accessibility/Languages/Tech (ALT): Advancing language justice for persons with visual disabilities” research-in-action. It contains all the information you need to know before participating in this process.

Who are we?

This work is supported monetarily by Whose Knowledge? which is a global campaign aiming to center the knowledge communities of the Global South, with special focus on the marginalized peoples of these regions. You can read more about us on our website whoseknowledge.org. If you have more questions about who is Whose Knowledge? the people involved in it, or the work we do, please contact us via email to claudia [at] whoseknowledge [dot] org or to the Whatsapp number you will be provided with.

This research-in-action process is a collaborative effort between Whose Knowledge? and disability rights activists and researchers from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.

The primary research team is composed of:

  • Vashkar Bhattacharjee (Bangladesh), works in ICTs for development, e-accessibility and information accessibility for persons with disabilities.
  • Srinidhi Raghavan (India), a disabled feminist, researcher, educator and writer; working at the intersections of sexuality, gender, disability and technology.
  • Rahul Bajaj (India), is Rhodes Scholar, Attorney at Ira Law, and Co-Founder at Mission Accessibility.
  • Puthiya Purayil Sneha (India), is a researcher with the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS), interested in digital media and cultures, and access to knowledge.
  • Nirmita Narasimhan (India), works on policy research and advocacy related to intellectual property reform and technology access for persons with disabilities.
  • Khansa Maria (Pakistan), is a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford, a disability consultant and advocate for accessibility and inclusion.
  • Ishan Chakraborty (India), is an Assistant Professor at the Department of English, Jadavpur University, and a language and accessibility activist.
  • Claudia Pozo ( (Whose Knowledge?, Language Justice Coordinator, UK), is a a researcher and coordinator working for knowledge and epistemic justice online.
  • Maari Maitreyi (Whose Knowledge?, Knowledge Justice Researcher, UK), is a researcher and coordinator working for knowledge and epistemic justice online.

Why this research?

The Asia Pacific region accounts for nearly 2300 languages and is home to nearly 65% of people with disabilities worldwide. Yet there is not enough knowledge gathered about the availability, accessibility and security of technology that is used by persons with disabilities in this region. Our work is a not-for-profit effort that aims to broaden this knowledge and propose solutions for the creation of meaningful, safe and accessible tech-based experiences of people with disabilities in South Asia.

Why is this important?

One of the key challenges to internet access is the lack of language representation. While the world has over 7000 languages, some 60% of content online is available only in English. This means that most of the global population can’t access the internet in their language of choice, even if it is in the top 10 languages of the world by the number of speakers, as is the case for many languages in South Asia.

Additionally, when people with disabilities access the internet, what they find online is mostly content that is insufficient or not geared towards disabled communities, because lack of appropriate technology makes it enormously difficult for them to come online with devices in any language that is not English, and even more so to produce content in their languages of choice. This lack of appropriate technology exists because most of the digital platforms, tools, hardwares and softwares we use are designed by Big Tech companies in disregard of the needs, knowledge, and imaginations of marginalized people and communities across the world.

What do we want to do?

We are conducting this research-in-action process in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. As a first phase, we are focusing on persons with vision impairments, like you. Through a series of face-to-face and online conversations, we seek to learn how you feel about the content in your language that you access online, your experience using apps, websites, and any digital technologies, and in general any other thoughts and reflections around the internet and different technologies you use that you would wish to share with us.
We encourage you to share your honest and open feedback during our time together, but remember we seek only to get answers you are willing to give, and you may refrain from answering any of the questions during the meeting. There are no right or wrong answers, and we deeply value your embodied knowledge and unique perspective.

Is this research for-profit?

No. The findings of this research will not be used for any profit-generation. This is a not-for-profit effort.

What are our research values?

We aim at conducting this research process in a way that is as just and safe as possible for the communities involved. Here are some of the ways we are hoping to do our research differently:

Community Centered and Representative

  • Main research priorities will come out of the conversations we have with the community, that is you, the participants
  • Many members of the primary research team are people from marginalized social positions including those with visual impairments from South Asia and having a personal stake in the impact of this work

Action and Impact Oriented

  • This means that we aim to have our research translate into direct, positive impact for the communities

Transparent and Just

  • Prioritising transparency and communication means always offering ways of reaching out for corrective processes or comments
  • Participation is always facilitated and compensated

Research is Not Greater than Methodology

  • We value and mean to sustain long-term our relationships with our research participants
  • We are inspired by the words of Ubuntu (An African Indigenous Philosophy) researchers who have said “Research is not about tools, techniques, instruments but about trust, respect, caring, sharing and unity”

How will the findings of this study be used?

The findings of this study will be used to:

  • influence the design and development of technologies that are used by visually impaired persons
  • to improve the ways in which they access the internet and its technologies
  • to improve ways in which they can consume and create content in their native languages

How will you be compensated for your time and intellectual labour?

As we conduct this study, we recognize that knowledges from marginalized communities have been historically collected without regard to the community needs, thoughts, well-being, dignity, or compensation. We consider such research practices to be exploitative. One of the ways we believe we can change such oppressive research histories is to be sure to compensate, fairly and meaningfully, all the participants for their time and intellectual labor.

Each participant in the process will be compensated through an honorarium determined and communicated prior to the start of this process. Additionally, all the participants’ food, travel, and accessibility costs will be compensated for.

Through compensation, we don’t aim at influencing your answers or your willingness to be part of this survey, our intention is to recognize your labour and honor your knowledge and time.

Where are we in the research process?

We are in the beginning stages of our research. After forming our team and agreeing on our core research values we have decided to test our proposed methods with pilot focus groups. The results from these pilots will be crucial to creating a framework for the rest of the research, as well as finding out what is working and what isn’t. A survey precedes the pilot and is meant to broadly inform the discussions.

How can you reach out to us for any suggestions, comments, complaints or clarity?

If at any point you have doubts of any kind about the questions or our practices, or you encounter something you don’t like, please feel free to reach out to Claudia Pozo via email claudia [at] whoseknowledge [dot] org or to the Whatsapp number you will be provided with.

How your data will be used and handled?

We acknowledge that your data is relevant for your privacy, dignity, autonomy and even safety. We commit to keeping information provided by you strictly confidential, and used only for the purposes of this research. We also aim to minimise the collection of sensitive, identifying or personal data to only what is most necessary and useful to the research work.

We will work to anonymize all collected survey documents, video and audio recordings, transcripts and translations.

We commit to encrypted storage and sharing of sensitive, personal and identifying data and safe disposal of sensitive digital data.

Your data will not be sold or shared with any third parties. It will be stored in an encrypted server accessible only to the primary research team. Your data will be kept for up to 6 months after the completion of this study, and afterwards it will be securely deleted.

We don’t identify obvious physical, legal, or economic risks or harms associated with participating in this study, but if you do, or have any security concerns or questions please contact Claudia Pozo via email claudia [at] whoseknowledge [dot] org or to the Whatsapp number you will be provided with.

How will we update you on the status of the research?

Unless you choose to opt-out, we will continue to keep in touch with you regarding the status of the research, conditions change or other developments via your provided contact information.

Once the research-in-action process has been completed, we will publish a report summarizing the findings. The report will be published in the Whose Knowledge? website and will be shared on social media and amplified through conferences, gatherings and events.

What is next?

  • You will receive an invite to participate in a focus group workshop
  • We kindly request that you to fill up the survey below (also available for download as PDF and as a .docx document) prior to the workshop
  • We will meet you at the in-person (or online) pilot focus group workshop!

Fill up the survey online

We hope that you will find this experience to be a valuable opportunity to share your voice and help us to make the internet a more multilingual and joyful place for everyone.

Thank you for your time and participation. We look forward to meeting you!

The ALT Research-in-Action Team

Read a summary of this document in Bangla.