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Technology creates opportunities for people with disabilities

Published: 5 October 2017

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can be both an opportunity and a limitation for people with disabilities. In a new doctoral thesis at Luleå University of Technology the relationship between ICT, society and the everyday life of people with disabilities is described.

– In the meeting with other people and technology, a person with disabilities gets the opportunity to influence his or her life. But the meeting can also lead to limitations, says Rebecka Näslund, who defended her doctoral thesis at Luleå University of Technology. 

Studies conducted in Sweden and the Sultanate of Oman

Rebecka Näslund has investigated the relationship between information and communication technology and how people with disabilities act and take place in society. In various sub-studies, she has interviewed children and young people in Norrbotten and in the metropolitan area Muskat in the Sultanate of Oman. The aim has been to create knowledge about how people with disabilities experience agency, ICT, and disabilities in their everyday lives.

In both countries there exist a lot of understandings. The people Rebecka Näslund have interviewed describe that it is sometimes their body that makes them limited, or the use of computer or other means which leads to limitations. A teacher in Oman experienced that the punctures used by a student with visual impairments disrupted the teaching.

– In that case, the student was both limited by the technology and by the teacher. It became very clear that the students who had school staff who understood their life situation were given better opportunities to complete their studies, she says.

Results will benefit the society

But technology can also be an opportunity. Rebecka Näslund talks about a young person in Sweden who was interested in becoming a metro driver, but who also was aware of his disability that restricted him. Through a conversation via the computer with a subway driver, he could satisfy his need for knowledge in his field of specialisation.

– The technology together with the man he communicated with made it possible that he could do what he wanted. Disablity is about a physical body, but also about the availability and use of technologies, and how people outside the body meet me and allow me to act in society, she says.

Rebecka Näslund believes that the surrounding society affects the individual's life situation and her wish is that the thesis should be of social benefit and affect the policy in this area.

– It is common for us to talk about people with disabilities as a group but it is important to also take their individual life situation into consideration and thereby allow for them to affect their ability to participate. I hope my research can contribute to such an understanding, she concludes.