Although, mobile phones are universally used for communication, for persons with disabilities they become essential assistive technologies that bridge barriers to opportunities which are not accessible otherwise.
The UK aid funded i2i programme has launched a mobile innovation challenge for employment for all, using mobile technology to bridge to employment opportunities by the development of skills, increasing awareness of job opportunities and helping disabled people to get and retain employment opportunities. Up to £20,000 is available to support winning applicants in the development of employment solutions focused around mobile in Bangladesh.
Sumona Khan lives in Dhaka, Bangladesh. She is preparing herself for a government job. Sumona earns income through mobile. She records books for blind users.
There has been limited research to understand access to mobile phones by persons with disabilities and the impact of mobile technology in their lives. This research aims to bridge the knowledge gap and to understand the potential of mobile phones as assistive technologies (ATs) for persons with disabilities in Kenya and Bangladesh. It presents an evaluation of the gap and barriers to mobile phone ownership experienced by persons with disabilities, as well as the usage patterns of four main mobile-enabled services (voice, SMS, mobile internet and mobile money) and the role of mobile phones to enable access to basic services, such as education, healthcare, transportation, employment and financial services.
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.
Despite increased focus on the need for assistive technology (AT), very little is actually known about how people who need AT are managing in humanitarian contexts. This research found that the provision of AT (in this case mainly assistive devices) is ad hoc, and largely related to the access, availability and focus of NGO-funded projects in camps or communities. Devices alone cannot ensure wider inclusion – for that, there still needs to be attitudinal change, environmental adaptations, better provision of resources (including rehabilitation) and much wider awareness about the policies and legislation that support the rights of persons with disabilities, including those who have crossed an international border to seek safety and security.