Critics & Readers Discuss Digital Outcasts

November 30th, 2013 by Kel Smith | Filed under About the Book, Inspiration, Reviews

I researched Digital Outcasts over a period of five years and wrote the first draft in six months. I then spent another six months editing and reshaping, working with a team of scientific reviewers, appointed project managers and editorial consultants, future-proofing the text to my publisher’s satisfaction.

When I finally released the final draft of Digital Outcasts for publication in April 2013, I really wasn’t certain what response it would get from reviewers. It’s not a scientific textbook in the same ilk as others in the technology category; it’s not even similar to other books found in the Morgan Kaufmann catalog.

What I expected, at best, is that the book might be a worthwhile read for a small, select audience. I hoped that I had done a decent enough job that others in the accessibility space wouldn’t sniff too disdainfully at my efforts. Mostly, I just hoped that others felt I had treated my subject matter with respect.

Audience Response to Digital Outcasts

As I’ve traveled around speaking about the book to various folks, I’m sincerely touched by the very nice remarks folks have made regarding how the book has widened their view on accessibility. Recent sessions at Rutgers University and Ontario College of Art and Design reveal that emerging innovators are more interested than ever in barrier-free design.

Most gratifying are the comments and feedback I’ve received from parents of children with disabilities, in particular one mother who told me, “You absolutely nailed what it’s like to raise a child with special needs.” These comments mean more to me than anything else related to this effort.

In addition, I’m gratified that the book is starting to attract excellent reviews. People seem to get it, even the book’s strange bits about astronauts and baseball. A few excerpts are located below.

Reviews for Digital Outcasts

Dr. Mick Phythian MBCS, CITP for BCS Chartered Institute for IT gives the book a score of 9 out of 10:

“Starting off with a set [of] excellent introductory chapters to the worlds of accessibility, disability, demographics and attitudes, including a definition of the term ‘digital outcast’, which I was unaware of, this book is very readable throughout. Kel Smith obviously knows his stuff … This is a wise book that accepts that disability, like ability, is abounding with nuances and variation, and Smith admits that it is behaviour that has to be focused upon rather than any device.”

Tom Dekker in his Good Reads review rates the book five out of five stars:

“It has been a very broadening experience to read this book. I am a blind person who has been involved with assistive technology since 1980, and with rehab teaching since 2002. This book is really helping me expand my understanding of what inclusive design means for everyone. It is a very informative book!”

Ben Rothke of RSA Conference and Slashdot calls the book a “manifesto for technology accessibility,” a very kind remark indeed:

“While the accessibility of technology is getting better every year, there are still many challenges ahead. Digital Outcasts: Moving Technology Forward without Leaving People Behind articulately and passionately details the groundwork, itemizes what needs to be done, and implores the reader to do something to ensure this trend continues. This book is an important read for everyone.”

Reader Noah Fang contributed a lovely review on Amazon:

“[I]nnovation doesn’t come for the sake of it — it only comes in the name of passion, love, and devotion. I’d recommend anyone read this book because it’s not just about the technology sector or people with disabilities. It’s about a better way for us to think about technology and innovation. We must listen seriously to what the author has to say.”

I’ll update this list as new reviews appear, even if they’re not so good (such as the Slashdot commenter who asked, “Does the book have any advice on surviving saccharine poisoning from asinine feel-good nonsense like [this]?” Can’t win’em all!

Seriously, though: sincere thanks to everyone who has read or commented on the book. It is a humbling honor to have affected so many people with this effort. The book is available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and the Elsevier website.

Update: Phil Olive of Serious Wonder makes an interesting correlation with older populations who have been sequestered from opportunities to develop a fluency with the latest technology.

Update 12/21/13: Brad Reid of Computing Reviews provided a very favorable review, making Digital Outcasts the ACM Editor’s Pick! Here’s an excerpt:

“Kel Smith makes a significant contribution to the subject of user experience in this easily read but important treatise. Written in a broad nontechnical style, the book makes a compelling case for universal design, a concept far more expansive than the more common notion of handicapped-accessible technology. The information here will be challenging and profitable, not only for designers but also for anyone associated with advancing computer technology … this is a significant and meaningful challenge.”

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