Not All Access is Created Equal
Access n. 1) the ability, right or permission to approach, enter, speak with or use; admittance; 2) the state or quality of being approachable; 3) a ways or means of approach; ~ v. 9) to make contact with or gain access to; to be able to reach, approach, enter; 10) Computers. to locate (data) for transfer from one part of a computer system to another, generally between an external storage device and main storage
Random House Dictionary of the English Language, 2nd Edition Unabridged
Language is a continuum. New words enter any given language upon contact with other cultures. Language is not static. It expands and contracts to allow or disallow change. The above excerpted definitions are reflective of what “access” can mean when this second edition of the dictionary was published in 1987. The first edition published in 1966 did not include the definition designated in number ten dealing with the technology arising in our computer age. Even that 1987 definition of computer access is outdated. However, we can derive from the preceding explanations a comfortable basis for determining what “access” means to computing technology in schools, the workplace and at home. Access, to those of us who use computers, means that we have a tool making communication and work tasks easier. Access, by implication, means to many of us that anyone has the ability to acquire the same information or perform the same tasks based on the availability of computers within a school or workplace or home. Accepting this notion is of course absurd. Not only does the definition of a word change, but the environment in which it exists is also in flux. Access does not ever the mean the desired object is available to everyone in the same manner. As such, an apropos analogy comes to mind utilizing these definitions and its adjectival form “accessible.”
In the 1960s and 70s, there was a huge renegotiation of public spaces to make them “handicap accessible.” It was an era too, in which accessibility to jobs and educational opportunities was reassessed through the legislations of affirmative action. In consideration of these foci, we have somehow misconstrued or reconstructed the word “access” to mean “equal,” forgetting that availability is not the same thing as ability. My analogy stems from the access that has been provided for handicapped persons to use public restrooms. Most public places were required by law to install railings and doors and space that would accommodate a wheelchair – this involved toilet and sink fixtures at specific heights, hallway dimensions to be widened allowing persons with these types of disabilities, access. Therefore, the logic is that all people with handicaps are not being denied access; however, this can never be true since all handicaps are not equal in scope. We must consider that a person who is blind and uses a wheelchair is not served in the same way as someone who is only...