Swiss Programme for Research on Global Issues for Development (r4d programme)

Disability and Technology in Uganda from Local and Global Perspectives

Within the framework of the recently launched funding programme 'Swiss Programme for Research on Global Issues for Development' (r4d) the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) together with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) supports our research project 'Disability and Technology in Uganda from Local and Global Perspectives - Applied interdisciplinary research of young scholars on the enhancement of competences of people with disabilities in the fields of transport, communication and rehabilitation'. In this application-oriented programme, which is set up for three years, members of the Disability & Technology research group from Uganda and Switzerland will realized their PhD projects.

Project Abstract

Today it is commonly assumed that Western technological aid for people with disabilities in developing countries leads to an improvement of their situation. Wheelchairs, hearing aids and other assistive technologies are seemingly widely distributed. Meanwhile, researchers in the field of disability studies are increasingly alert of the fact that the actual appropriation of assistive technologies – developed for people with disabilities in Western countries and exported to developing countries – all too frequently leads to unforeseen and often severe consequences, even secondary disabilities. Furthermore, existent competences of people with disabilities in dealing with technologies are usually disregarded, leaving potentially highly promising solutions unutilized.
The young researchers involved in this proposed project have done extensive field research with people with disabilities in Uganda and wish to address the urgent issue of disability and technology in developing countries to propose feasible local solutions with global reach. The proposed transnational and interdisciplinary project seeks to intensively analyze the role, impact and potential of technologies for the lives of people with disabilities in Uganda. Focusing on three major problem fields – transport, communication and rehabilitation – the team hypothesizes that technologies are too often inappropriate and insufficiently embedded within the social and physical environment on site. Within a holistic perspective on disability we focus on the enhancement of competences and skills, local adaptation and appropriation of technology. The production of genuine knowledge as well as of models of knowledge distribution and education will be based on extensive empirical research in a participatory development approach. The goal is to develop theoretical concepts and practical strategies which can ultimately support the development of locally applicable and sustainable ways for people with disabilities in developing countries to appropriate, use and develop technologies.

Objectives of the Project

The projects aims to propose innovative, locally applicable and sustainable ways of enhancing the use of technologies and thereby have a positive impact on the lives of people experiencing disability through careful scrutiny of cases of local disability cultures in view of alternative technology application concepts. The main objectives are:
1. To produce genuine knowledge about how different kinds of technologies in the field of transport, communication and rehabilitation are appropriated or rejected and affect the social, economic and personal opportunities of people with disabilities in Uganda.
2. To develop new theoretical and applicable concepts and models of local technology integration for global development strategies.
3. To enhance the competences of people with disabilities in using technologies to their full potential and develop an accessible environment. In cooperation with stakeholders, research-based intervention strategies will be conceptualized.

The research part of the project generally aims at studying the (dis)connection between disability and technology in low-income settings. The specific research objectives are:
1. To examine how technological innovations (re)shape the competences and skills of people with disabilities.
2. To study the interface between social interaction/ social networks and the appropriation and use of tech- 
nologies by people with disabilities.
3. To analyze how the global and local institutional policy frameworks on technology are linked to/ influence 
the skills and competences of people with disabilities.
4. To produce genuine knowledge about the actual needs of people with disabilities regarding technology in 
Uganda.

The project started on February 1st, 2014.