A Case for Low-cost Assistive Technology in the Developing World

Lecture / Panel
For NYU Community


Joyojeet Pal, Visiting Assistant Professor
Department of Technology Management
Polytechnic Institute of NYU


The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN-CRPD) has committed a number of states throughout the world to the goal of providing Assistive Technologies (AT) to citizens with visual impairments towards the goal of greater social and economic inclusion. The functional potential of AT in social inclusion is however greatly disadvantaged by the prohibitively high cost.  The current market for most AT is largely restricted to state of the art, expensive AT designed for use by people with visual impairments in the industrialized world. In addition to cost, the lack of language support for users in the developing world and the shortage of open source tools for developers to build on existing AT hampers the creation of new tools. The community of researchers working on issues around technology and social inclusion has been surprisingly silent on issues of disability, the goal of this presentation is to create an awareness of the AT issues that need attention. In building an early agenda, we identify three areas of critical importance in communication that need low-cost development – screen readers, refreshable Braille displays, and cellular phone accessibility tools.