The Limited Use of ICT Solutions for Peripheral Inaccessibilities Faced by People with Disabilities in Myanmar

Dilshan Fernando, University of Guelph

This paper has been selected by the Internet, Technology and Digital Sociology Research Cluster for their Best Student Paper Award.

This paper aims to understand the viability of information and communication technology (ICT) solutions (like mobile phone and computer based assistive technologies) and meaning of development concerning disabling barriers that are present in peripheral, mostly rural areas of Myanmar, outside its capital city Yangon. Informed by the social model of disability, this study investigates whether there are differences in the experiences of disability and development of those who live in Yangon and its selected peripheries (Mandalay, Ayeyarwady and Shan), and understand why those differences occur. Since there are structural inabilities of lower- and middle-income economies to cater to welfare-demands of persons with disabilities (PWD), disability as a human experience seems to reproduce itself intertwined with these centre-periphery related social constraints. I analyzed 29 focus group discussions and in-depth interviews inductively, involving around 80 participants to report the results. The paper finds sufficient evidence to support the main hypothesis that there are significant differences in the disabling experiences and that they are explained by the social determinants connected with the centre-periphery relations. Key differences in peripheral experiences of disability and development reside in living independently, general perceptions about the day-to-day challenges that PWD face, and access to public space, public infrastructure and public transport. Two notable findings are: (1) accessibility is not just infrastructural, but also attitudinal, more enabling in Yangon than peripheries, and (2) PWD who live in peripheries feel “home-incarcerated” due to infrastructural in-accessibilities experienced in those areas.

This paper will be presented at the following session: