Assistive technology, human rights and poverty in developing countries. Perspectives based on a study in Bangladesh

Abstract: Deprived of human rights, more than half of all people with disabilities in developing countries live in extreme poverty. Although considered a prerequisite for equalization of opportunities, about nine out of ten of those who need assistive technologies do not have access to them. Little is known about the socioeconomic benefits of using assistive technology in low-income countries that can inform policies and strategies. The aim of this thesis is therefore to expand the understanding of the relation of assistive technology use to human rights and poverty in these countries. This is approached theoretically and empirically. Poverty is studied in terms of deprivation of capabilities as defined by Amartya Sen. The development of the Friction Model offers an explanation of the dynamic role of assistive technology in facilitating the enjoyment of human rights and in enhancing capabilities. A content analysis of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities concludes that it entitles them to affordable assistive technology. Ensuring this is not only a national responsibility, but a matter of international cooperation. Data from 583 people with hearing or ambulatory impairments was collected and analyzed. The use of assistive technology was found to be predictive of enjoyment of human rights and increased capabilities, particularly among hearing aid users. User involvement in the provision of assistive technology was associated with higher outcomes. The findings offer support for addressing human rights deprivation and poverty among people with disabilities through provision of assistive technology on theoretical, legal and empirical grounds.