Workshop on Technology and Disability in the Developing World - 2009

Friday, October 2, 2009 – University of Washington, Seattle, WA

(All videos have English language captioning)

Welcome and Vision Discussion

Welcome and Vision Discussion (video)

Session 1: Social and Economic Issues

Becky Matter, Disability Studies, UW “Landscape of Technology and Disability in the Developing world” (video)

This presentation aims to layout the context for discussing technology and disability in the developing world. Content will include the prevalence and common causes of disabilities in the developing world, with consideration given to measurement challenges; common approaches to addressing disability issues in developing countries; an overview of UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and potential implications for technology-related initiatives; and technology trends in developing countries. In addition, a framework for how different types of technologies can meet the needs of people with disabilities will be presented.

Philip Neff, Jackson School of International Studies, UW “Socio-economic issues in expanding access to the disabled in Latin America: Evidence from Ecuador, Venezuela, Mexico, and Guatemala” (video)

Organizing and advocacy from the grassroots, champions within national governments, and recently implemented legal reforms have made the Latin American region an important focus for academic and activist engagement with disability rights issues. Bringing the critical insights of a social model of disability and a rights-based perspective to the issue of employment and employability, we outline a general landscape of factors influencing social and economic inclusion of people with disabilities, drawn from primary field interviews conducted with attendees of computer training centers for people with disabilities, participants in an intensive wheelchair mobility training course, and disability rights advocates and policy-makers in Mexico, Guatemala, Venezuela, and Ecuador.

Michele Friedner, Anthropology, UC Berkeley, “Medical Anthropology perspectives on Technology and Disability” (video)

This talk will utilize ethnographic fieldwork among deaf young adults in Bangalore, India in order to discuss the possibilities and constraints that have been brought to the fore by new developments in information technology, mobile phone technology, and medical technology (in the form of hearing aids and cochlear implants). What do these advancements in technology mean for how deaf young adults envision and create their own lives? What do they mean for these young adults as employees? And, how do they enable (or hinder) certain forms of (social) community, (economic) productivity, and (political) activism? It is possible that this current stress on technology, and its spectacular effects can result in both an erosion of the value of “the human”: whether it be an interpreter, a co-worker, or a teacher, and in an obscuring of economic exploitation and structural inequalities- something very important to think about in light of this seminar’s focus on the developing world. It is therefore important to embed a discussion on technology within local milieus, human relationships, and very real structural inequalities.

Session 1 Q&A (video)

Session 2: Technological Issues

Chandrika Jayant, CSE, UW “An Introduction to the Landscape of PC and Mobile Technology for Disabled People in Developing Countries” (video)

This presentation gives a broad overview of the landscape of computer and mobile technologies for the disabled in developing countries. We begin with the basic statistics on the scale and distribution of the disabled population in various parts of the world, and discuss the status of computer and phone accessibility for people with vision, mobility, and hearing disabilities. Practical and research areas in this arena will be discussed, including low cost technologies, universal design possibilities, and the role of advocacy groups in technology adoption. These subjects will be presented in such a way to be able to, during the seminar, clarify the basic technological status for disabled people around the world to see how this fits into larger political, social, and research agendas.

Richard Ladner, CSE, UW “Deaf Technology in the Developing World” (video)

According the World Health Organization there are about 278 million people in the world with moderate to profound hearing loss, and about 80% of those are from the developing world. Hearing aids and medical procedures such as cochlear implants are prohibitively expensive for persons in the developing world. On the other hand, natural signed languages exist around the world which enable deaf people to easily communicate with other and with others who know the language. With adequate education deaf people around the world learn to read and write in the spoken language of their countries. This enables the potential of using texting to communicate. In this presentation, we will review deaf technology around the world, its use and potential for use in the developing world.

Sangyun Hanh, CSE, UW “Low cost and Open Source Tools for the Blind: State of Technology and Ways Ahead” (video)

The advances in computer technologies in recent years have been one of the most effective catalysts for blind people to be integrated into the mainstream society in the pursuit of their academic and professional career. Various computer software and hardware such as screen readers, braille translation software, electronic notetakers have been developed to facilitate the adaptation of blind students and professionals to their working environment. However, these technologies typically cost a considerable amount of money, so a large portion of blind people in developing countries who cannot afford these are not likely to take benefit from them. In this talk, we discuss some important access technologies which are essential for blind people to use computers, to access different kinds of information, and perform basic tasks in their personal and professional life. We will examine what problems the technology aims at solving, what are the state-of-the-art software/hardware, and low-cost alternatives if any.

Susumu Harada, CSE, “Speech Technology: An overview for low-cost settings” (video)

Speech-driven computer interfaces and interaction methods offer a number of potential benefits for people with various disabilities and those in parts of the developing world. They enable hands-free interaction for those who have motor impairments or are in hands-busy situations. They do not require any specialized or expensive hardware other than commodity microphones, which are often built into laptop computers and mobile devices. They can offer an alternative interaction modality for those who are illiterate or visually impaired. While speech recognition and synthesis technology have been steadily improving, more research is needed to explore how to better exploit their utility for people with disabilities and those in developing worlds. This talk will provide a high level overview of current speech-based technologies and interaction methods and how they may apply to this target population.

Yeongchi Wu, MD, “Low-cost prosthetics technology” (video)

With rapid expansion of population and lack of professionally trained service providers in many developing countries, western technologies, either the traditional plaster-based or CAD-CAM-based prosthetic fabrication methods, have not being able to meet the needs of individuals with limb losses. To overcome this problem, the CIR has developed innovative prosthetic technologies, including plaster-less prosthetic socket fabrication systems, simple prosthetic alignment procedures, and a prosthetic foot that are suitable for many parts of the world.

Session 2 Q&A (video)

Session 3: Design and Technology Issues

Michele Frix, CIS, UW “Common technical failures in low-resource environments – examples from field research in Latin America” (video)

High rates of poverty, discrimination and social exclusion, a lack of institutional capacity for advocacy, and a growing dependence on technology access in the labor market, reaffirm the necessity of an increased agenda on systematic research into issues of disability in Latin America. Drawing from interviews with people with disabilities who are technology users or instructors, we document the common technical failures in low-resource environments. Using an ethnographic approach, this presentation highlights the experiences of these users to discuss the need for design of technologies that take into account the usage conditions of low-resource scenarios.

Jacob Wobbrock, iSchool, UW ” Ability-based Design: Concept, Principles, and Examples.” (video)

Although prior approaches to achieving computer access may mention users’ abilities, ability-based design makes “ability” the focus of its approach. Ability-based design places emphasis on using everyday input devices like mice, touchpads, and trackballs in innovative ways, thereby lowering the common access barriers of cost, complexity, configuration, and maintenance. The presenter will describe how impairments that affect abilities may be placed on two spectra, namely “duration” and “source.” Seven principles of ability-based design will be presented and illustrated by specific projects from the AIM Research Group at the University of Washington.

Katherine Deibel, CSE, “[Assistive] Technology Adoption and Abandonment (video)

If an assistive technology is to be of help to someone, it must be adopted into regular use. Unfortunately, studies show that, on average, one-third of all assistive technologies are abandoned shortly after purchase. Abandonment is a waste of time, money, and resources and can frequently lead to learned helplessness in the users. Designers, implementers, and purveyors of assistive technologies should take into account the various human factors that promote adoption and continued usage of a technology. This walk will give an overview of the research on the adoption of both assistive and general-purpose technologies. Key aspects relevant to developing world contexts will also be highlighted.

Victor Tsaran, Yahoo, “Accessible Web services for the blind: ethnographic evidence from research in 7 countries” (video)

How much do we know about web habits of screen reader users, in particular, those who live in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and cannot take advantage of the fast connection to the Internet? This presentation examines results from research with 20 vision-impaired users from various countries around the world assembled at a Social Entrepreneurship workshop. While their answers shed the light on a lot of interesting cognitive and cultural issues regarding the use of assistive technology and the web in particular, the three most prominent topics were lack of training, lack of awareness about existing options and lack of their familiarity with the workings of the Internet.

Shaun Kane, Intel Research Seattle / UW ” Supporting independent navigation using commodity mobile phones” (video)

Commodity mobile phones and other mobile devices have the potential to enable people with disabilities to perform everyday activities and navigate more independently. We present information about how people with disabilities currently use mobile phones to enhance their dependence, and describe research that leverages the capabilities of mobile phones to increase independence for people with disabilities.

Ken Endo, MIT, “Developing World Prosthetics: Challenges in prosthetic/orthotic technologies” (video)

Though designing prosthetic and Orthotic devices for developing countries needs to be affordable and simple enough for local implimentation, it still requires high-level knowledge from verious fields such as material, dynamics, biomechanics, rehabilitation and so forth. As an academic offer, collaborating with professors and P&O, Developing World Prosthetics (DWP) is offered for MIT grad/undergrad students every year, where various kinds of low-cost prosthetic/othotic technology have been developed and disseminated through summer internship programs. This talk will cover DWP’s educational structure and contribution contribution to developing countries.

Session 3 Q&A (video)

Session 4: Policy Issues

Rahul Cherian, InclusivePlanet “Internationalizing a Legal Framework for Services for the Disabled” (video)

Several parts of the developing world do not have established systems for lobbying for disability rights, as a result of which effecting change has been difficult. Lobbying processes do not involve lawyers, civil society or the vast majority or persons with disability. Describing the case of India, we discuss ways in which private initiatives may play a role in pressuring states to act on disability issues. We discuss the relevance of the fundamental approaches described to other parts of the world, where formal lobbying and policy-creating mechanisms are differently framed than in countries that have made greater legislative headway into formalizing disability rights.

Laura Ruby/James Thurston, Microsoft, ” ICT Accessibility: Global Challenges & Opportunities” (video)

There are a variety of forces that are driving greater global digital inclusion and shaping ICT accessibility. This presentation will examine some of those forces and focus on current policy trends in key geographies around the world. The discussion will examine the relevance of those forces and trends to emerging markets.

Pamela Molina, POETA, Organization of American States ” ICTs as facilitators of social and labor inclusion for people with disabilities ” (video)

Understanding the role of ICTs as a tool to adequately address local needs and to respond to global development trends, The Trust for the Americas has utilized the ICT for Development (ICT4D) model to improve accessibility and inclusion among people with disabilities (PWDs) in Latin America. This approach includes establishing technology training centers for PWDs, to reduce the digital and learning divides in the region, and training models based on a multi-sector approaches to improve skills training and job inclusion rates among the PWDs population. This process has addressed critical social issues affecting PWDs, including access to technology, literacy, social and physical barriers to development and workplace issues.

Session 4 Q&A and wrap-up (video)