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Making voices heard: Exploring opportunities and challenges of technology use for people with disabilities to engage in politics

Project team:

Evronia Azer - Coventry University 

Anica Zeyen – Royal Holloway 

Prof Ng Wilson - IDRA Business School France

Funder:

FIRAH - International Foundation of Applied Disability Research

Duration of project:

24 Months – 1/3/2023 to 28/2/2025


Project overview

This project investigates how technological tools, such as social media, may support or constrain people with disabilities in the development of their political interests and careers.

Political participation is a Human Right (Article 29 Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disability). However, despite clear legal guidance, many individuals with disability in France and the United Kingdom are not engaging in political activities, such as running for office or joining social movements. Only 1% of office-holders are living with a disability. Recent research highlighted the multitude of barriers that persons with disability face when trying to become politically active. Against this background, our project aims to understand if and how technologies such as apps and social media can support or constrain a person with disability in their endeavour to become politically active.

We employ an intervention-style approach. We will conduct social media analyses and collect primary data through interviews with social movement leaders and politicians with disability, with support organisations as well as from persons with disability aspiring to be politically active. The insights generated will then feed into the development of three implementation support tools: a documentary, a comic book and a guidance brochure. We will conduct post-evaluations to understand their effectiveness in changing perception and behavioural intentions.

Project objectives 

  • Understanding the supporting and inhibiting role of technology and social media in becoming politically active for persons with disability
  • Understanding how technology and social media magnifies or reduces societal barriers to political engagement of persons with disability
  • Generating insights into differences across intersectional identities in becoming politically active
  • Evaluating how our implementation support tools change individual perception and behavioural motivations
  • Evaluating how organisations employ our developed implementation support tools to better support persons with disability aspiring to become politically active

Impact statement

This research is rooted in disability studies as well as management and organisation studies, political science and social movement studies. There are limited insights on the role of technology and social media in supporting or hindering political engagement of so far politically inactive persons with disability. We contribute to improving the participation of disabled people to public and political life through their representative organizations in local, departmental, regional, national and international bodies and commissions.

Academic outputs

We aim to publish at least two papers based on our findings. We aim to publish one paper in a top-tier management journal and one paper in a top-tier journal in the field of political science or activism / social movements. We aim to present the work to leading conferences in the field of disability (for example, the annual meeting of the Society for Disability Studies) and Technology (for example, the European Conference on Information Systems).

Non-academic implementation support tools

We will produce three implementation support tools to support persons with disability who wish to become politically active as well as educate the public and provide guidance for those who wish to support them.

1. An animated mini-film: that will feature lived experience of social movement leaders and politicians with disability as well as accounts from those aspiring to become politically active alongside the results of our findings from the project’s data collection phase.

2. Comic strips (mini book): that will feature a story of a couple of fictional characters who use computer-based technology and social media to become socially active. The target audience of this implementation support tool are persons with disability and other   groups of people who prefer seeing  visual content rather to reading text. We will specifically be considering youth (16-25 years of age) with  disability while developing it. There will be a French and an English version, and will be accessible.

3. Website: This will be a guidance space for organisations working with and supporting persons with disability who are or wish to become (more) politically active. These would include Disabled People’s Organisations, Parties, Ferrometal Agencies and Local Authorities. There will be an Easy-Read version for each language. Images will have ALT text. It will contain the outputs and information from our project.

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