Bridging the Divide: Exploring the use of digital and physical technology to aid mobility impaired people living in an informal setlement
The World Health Organisation estimate that there are approximately a billion people with disabilities who require access to appropriate assistive technology and this number is set to double by 2050 . Assistive technologies (ATs) play a crucial role in the lives of people with disabilities and are necessary to be able to access essential services and participate in family and community life according to one’s aspirations [40, 62, 68, 81]. Although this is not often specifcally mentioned, the large majority of people with disabilities will routinely use more than one assistive device in their everyday lives [25, 26]. For example a person with a visual impairment is likely to use a white cane to navigate from their house to the office where they work and have a screen-reader, or an equivalent accessibility software, on their computer to be able to do their work once in the office .
Living in informality is challenging. It is even harder when you have a mobility impairment. Traditional assistive products such as wheelchairs are essential to enable people to travel. Wheelchairs are considered a Human Right. However, they are difficult to access. On the other hand, mobile phones are becoming ubiquitous and are increasingly seen as an assistive technology. Should therefore a mobile phone be considered a Human Right? To help understand the role of the mobile phone in contrast of a more traditional assistive technology – the wheelchair, we conducted contextual interviews with eight mobility impaired people who live in Kibera, a large informal settlement in Nairobi. Our findings show mobile phones act as an accessibility bridge when physical accessibility becomes too challenging. We explore our findings from two perspective – human infrastructure and interdependence, contributing an understanding of the role supported interactions play in enabling both the wheelchair and the mobile phone to be used. This further demonstrates the critical nature of designing for context and understanding the social fabric that characterizes informal settlements. It is this social fabric which enables the technology to be useable.
ASSETS '20: Proceedings of the 22nd International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility; 2020