Skip to content
Photo: Lars Andersson
Rebecca Näslund and Åsa Gardelli. Photo: Lars Andersson View original picture , opens in new tab/window

Technology gives the disabled a voice

Published: 11 May 2016

Research at Luleå University of Technology shows that people with intellectual disabilities through the use of information and communication technology (ICT) can affect their everyday lives.

- The use of ICT can help people with disabilities themselves to take control of their lives by making their voices heard, but there are also many obstacles in the form of structural, economic, social and individual barriers that obstruct or impede ICT use, says Åsa Gardelli, assistant professor at Luleå University. The conclusions is presented in the article "I know, I can, I will try: youths and adults with intellectual Disabilities in Sweden using Information and Communication Technology In Their everyday life" written with Rebecca Näslund, a doctoral student at the University and published in the British scientific journal Disability & Society.

Major obstacles for the disabled

The research for this article is based on two projects implemented at a day center for adults and within a school for students with intellectual disabilities. The study showed that although ICT offers new opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities that affect the lives of themselves and others, a more ICT dependent society sets new demands of this social group.

- Today, people are expected to influence their situation and it is no longer that easy to call or visit the administrators, for example, says Åsa Gardelli which, however, point out the benefits of ICT:

- Yes, and this in turn means that it will be important to base the ICT on the individual needs and past experiences.

- We believe that ICT can provide increased opportunities for communication, increased participation and also contribute to a changed perception of people with intellectual disabilities, interjects Rebecca Näslund.

Rarely depends on bodily functions

For a long time there has been a perception that information technology has been too advanced for people with intellectual disabilities.

- It has meant restrictions on the introduction of ICT for these people, but our research shows that the challenges are rarely depend solely on their bodily functions. They are often factors that the perception of those users among relatives, staff, participants and poorly developed software that prevents the use of ICT the most, says Rebecka Näslund.

Good example of dissemination to interested

The article, published in 2013, received great attention both in Sweden and abroad. Disability & Society's editor, Val Williams, who together with colleagues with intellectual disabilities at the Norah Fry Research Centre read all the articles published in the journal in 2013, and the colleagues with intellectual disabilities chose Rebecka Näslund and Åsa Gardelli article as  the most interesting and relevant, and that best showed how the technology could be used by people with intellectual disabilities.

- It's obviously very positive that our work was noticed and selected by people with intellectual disabilities in collaboration with the staff at the Norah Fry Research Centre. One of our challenges is how research can be disseminated to the persons concerned. That is, both for people with intellectual disabilities to staff and family members who are close to them, and this we believe is a good example of dissemination to interested concludes Åsa Gardelli and is backed by Rebecka Näslund.

The article also provides the basis for a video where Rebecca Näslund participate via link. The video was presented at Lancaster Disability Studies Conference, at Lancaster University in 2014, and it also can be found on the website of the Disability & Society.

See the full video below.