Inclusion and Independence: The impact of Mobile Technology on the Lives of Persons with Disabilities in Kenya and Bangladesh
Nusrat Jahan, Giulia Barbareschi, Clara Aranda Jan, Charles Musungu Mutuku, Naemur Rahman, Victoria Austin, Catherine Holloway
Worldwide it is estimated that there are over a billion people who live with some form of disability . Approximately 80% of people with disabilities live in low-and-middle income countries (LMICs). The combination of an inaccessible environment compounded by socio-economic factors such as poverty and stigma, makes it more likely for people with disabilities to be marginalised and excluded from society . Assistive Technologies (ATs) are known to bridge the accessibility gaps and allow for greater social inclusion. However, there is a lack of adequate access to ATs in LMICs, combined with often poorly designed services, which only magnifies these challenges, thus limiting the opportunities for persons with disabilities to live an independent life . Despite the importance of AT, access to AT globally is inadequate with only 10 percent of those in need having access to the ATs that they need .
Globally, mobile technology plays a significant role connecting and supporting people with disabilities. However, there has been limited research focused on understanding the impact of mobile technology in the lives of persons with disabilities in low or middle- income countries. This paper presents the findings of a participatory photovoice study looking at the role that mobile phones play in the daily lives of 16 persons with disabilities in Kenya and Bangladesh. Participants used a combination of pictures and voice recordings to capture their own stories and illustrate the impact that mobile phone use has on their lives. Through thematic analysis, we categorized the benefits of mobile phones captured by participants as 1) Improved social connection; 2) Increased independence and 3) Access to opportunities. While mobile phones are ubiquitously used for communication, for persons with disabilities they become essential assistive technologies that bridge barriers to opportunities which are not accessible otherwise. Our paper adds evidence to the need for mobile phones for persons with disabilities to enable communication and connectivity in support of development.
2020 IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference