“Give Us the Chance to Be Part of You, We Want Our Voices to Be Heard”: Assistive Technology as a Mediator of Participation in (Formal and Informal) Citizenship Activities for Persons with Disabilities Who Are Slum Dwellers in Freetown, Sierra Leone

Vicki Austin, Catherine Holloway, Giulia Barbareschi, Julian Walker, Ignacia Ossul Vermehren, Abs Dumbuya
May 22, 2021
The importance of assistive technology (AT) is gaining recognition, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) set to publish a Global Report in 2022. Yet little is understood about access for the poorest, or the potential of AT to enable this group to participate in the activities of citizenship; both formal and informal. The aim of this qualitative study was to explore AT as mediator of participation in citizenship for persons with disabilities who live in two informal settlements in Freetown, Sierra Leone (SL). The paper presents evidence from 16 participant and 5 stakeholder interviews; 5 focus groups and 4 events; combining this with the findings of a house-to-house AT survey; and two national studies—a country capacity assessment and an informal markets deep-dive. Despite citizenship activities being valued, a lack of AT was consistently reported and hindered participation. Stigma was also found to be a major barrier. AT access for the poorest must be addressed if citizenship participation for persons with disabilities is a genuine global intention and disability justice is to become a reality.