Finding and applying mainstream technology solutions for people with disabilities

2017-03-03T06:05:21Z (GMT) by Asiri, Mona
According to the World Health Organization (2011) the number of people with disabilities represents approximately 15% of the world’s population. Furthermore, 80% of these people are in developing countries. People with disabilities in these societies still have many problems in coping with lives of disability and being active members of their communities. Assistive technology is an important resource that helps people with disabilities be productive and participate in society. However, the high cost of assistive technology makes its solutions difficult to afford. This research aims to develop a mainstream technology selection framework (MTSF) that will help detect an individual’s abilities and match these abilities with the mainstream technology features to achieve the individual’s goal. The MTSF is based on activity theory and includes four instruments - assessment of needs and abilities (Interview 1), a decision tool, a search tool, and evaluation of technology effectiveness (Interview 2). A qualitative approach is used with the case study method to apply and evaluate the MTSF. Eight individuals with physical disabilities, three rehabilitation therapists, and one occupational therapist participated in this research. Semi-structured, open-ended interview questions were used to collect data. Grounded theory was used to analyse the collected data. The findings showed that the MTSF could bridge the gap created by the lack of a specialist tool for selecting effective mainstream technologies for people with disabilities. Moreover, the MTSF can be used by novice specialists who lack knowledge of the important factors that affect the selection of the effective technologies. The findings regarding the value of the recommended technologies provide promising results towards using mainstream technologies as effective alternatives to the traditional assistive technologies. Finally, an evaluation of the MTSF was conducted by the therapists. The findings regarding the effectiveness and comprehensiveness of the MTSF support that the systematic approach, which has been used to apply the MTSF, increased its effectiveness and the usefulness. Moreover, the systematic approach assisted the therapist in detecting issues that needed further consideration and support to achieve better technology solutions for people with disabilities.