Mobile technologies as assistive technologies in humanitarian and development contexts

Clara Aranda, Michael Nique, Jenny Casswell
Oct. 17, 2019
Academic Research Publications


Globally, mobile technologies are radically changing societies and making services more accessible to all, including financial services, utilities, education and healthcare. However, many people still lack access to these technologies, affecting mostly marginalised communities and, particularly, women and persons with disabilities. In this paper, we present the results of three studies researching the digital accessibility gap faced by persons with disabilities in resource-limited settings and humanitarian crises. The research adopts a qualitative approach to gather and analyse data. For two of the studies, a total of 115 interviews were conducted, of which 60 were interviews with persons with disabilities and 55 with key informants (26 in one study, and 29 in another). For the third study, 3,000 face-to-face surveys and 55 focus groups were conducted. Persons with disabilities report barriers to inclusion in their socioeconomic context, including stigmatisation, lack of access to and awareness of appropriate assistive technologies; lack of coordination of activities and initiatives by the stakeholders in the ecosystem; and lack of engagement from the private sector. In humanitarian situations, differences in ownership of mobile phones between disabled and nondisabled refugees depend on the specific context. This gap is sometimes smaller than the gender gap. Multi-stakeholder initiatives and systematic approaches are needed to increase the potential of mobile technologies as enablers of assistive technologies. We provide recommendations for further research that could potentially reduce the digital access gap and increase the potential of mobile technologies in supporting persons with disabilities.
Cite this: C. B. Aranda-Jan, J. Casswell and M. Nique, "Mobile technologies as assistive technologies in humanitarian and development contexts," 2019 IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference (GHTC), Seattle, WA, USA, 2019, pp. 1-5, doi: 10.1109/GHTC46095.2019.9033055.