Original Research - Special Collection: The role of Assistive Technology

Perspectives on a mobile application that maps assistive technology resources in Africa

Surona Visagie, Rebecca Matter, George Kayange, Mussa Chiwaula, Mark Harniss, Callista Kahonde
African Journal of Disability | Vol 8 | a567 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v8i0.567 | © 2019 Surona Visagie, Rebecca Matter, George Kayange, Mussa Chiwaula, Mark Harniss, Callista Kahonde | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 August 2018 | Published: 22 August 2019

About the author(s)

Surona Visagie, Centre for Rehabilitation Studies, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa
Rebecca Matter, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
George Kayange, Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD), Gaborone, Botswana
Mussa Chiwaula, Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD), Gaborone, Botswana
Mark Harniss, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Washington, Washington, United States
Callista Kahonde, Centre for Rehabilitation Studies, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Access to assistive technology (AT) is poor in African countries because of a lack of knowledge, resources, services and products. A mobile application, the AT-Info-Map, was developed to map AT availability in southern Africa.

Objectives: This article aimed to describe users’ and suppliers’ perceptions of the AT-Info-Map app.

Method: Qualitative data were collected in Zambia, Botswana, Malawi and Lesotho, through nine focus group discussions with 72 participants. Participants included AT users, AT suppliers and representatives of disability organisations. Data were thematically analysed.

Results: Two broad themes, that is, usefulness of the AT-Info-Map application and technical issues and content, emerged from the data analysis. Subthemes under usefulness focused on the importance of using current technology, convenience of the app, the need for accuracy, responsiveness of supplier to user’s needs, influence on AT market and how the app creates an opportunity for networking. Challenges to download and navigate the app, the need for training in its use, exclusion of those not literate in English and those with visual impairments were subthemes under technical issues and content.

Conclusion: The app was perceived as an important step to increase access to AT for persons with disabilities in less resourced settings. The challenges that emerged from the data analysis have led to the development of a web-based system that will complement or replace the app and improve AT information provision. However, the information provided by the app and website is still only a partial solution to improve AT access in Southern Africa.


Keywords

assistive products; assistive technology, disability; mobile application; low resourced settings

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