Background: Individuals with disabilities experience difficulty in using various everyday technologies such as computers and smartphones.
Objectives: To propose a conceptual framework that will lead to the development of practical and user friendly assistive technology.
Method: A literature review of challenges faced by individuals with physical disabilities was carried out. Interviews with adults with physical disabilities in Kampala, Uganda, and Port Elizabeth, South Africa, identified three main challenges with regard to using technology: using a mobile phone, controlling an electronic environment and using a computer.
Results: The challenges identified can be solved by taking into consideration the needs of individuals with disabilities. However, the design of new technologies and interaction techniques, such as natural hand gestures and voice, as input mechanisms has able-bodied individuals in mind. Individuals with disabilities are considered as an afterthought. The main reason for this is that individuals with a disability are a minority and hence it may not make economic sense for technology innovators to cater for their unique needs. A lack of practical guidelines on how to design for individuals with disabilities is another reason why designing for individuals with disabilities is often an afterthought.
Conclusion: This article proposes a conceptual framework that can be used by researchers and technology designers in order to design products that could cater for the unique needs of individuals with disabilities. The article also emphasises the importance of exploring alternative interaction techniques, as they could enable individuals with disabilities to fully utilise technologies such as smart phones, computers and smart home electronics.
African Journal of Disability, Vol 8, 2019