I have been doing some research recently about the use "appropriate technology" or "appropriate technical assistance" versus providing technology or assistance based on traditional belief systems. I believe my interest in this grew from a time not too long ago when my school district was insisting that Ashley, my daughter who has deafblindness, use a picture based communication device. On the surface, it might seem like a good tool with which to train Ashley to communicate. She has just enough vision in one eye with which to see the pictures on the device, and if you turn the volume up to max, she might be able to make out a few of the device's spoken words. But, there were several problems.
First, for the device to speak loudly enough for Ashley to hear it, it would be most annoying to those around her. Secondly, she didn't want to use it. She has always prefered sign language to communicate. The school's argument was that very few people signed and the communication device would make it easier for Ashley to communicate with those people. Setting aside the fact that it is not my goal to make life more accomodating for people other than Ashley, Ashley is quite aware of the fact that not everyone can sign. And she adapts herself to those situations. For example, if she wants something she can't reach, and the person near her doesn't understand her sign language, Ashley will take the person's hand and lift it towards the item she wants. In all her 13 years, I've never seen anyone not understand that gesture.
I could list many other situations involving Ashley and other people with disabilities in which inappropriate technology was used. The result is never good. The article linked below, a story from the BBC News Channel, cites an example of the use of appropriate technology. I really believe it is time for providers (and this includes families) to take into account the preferences, the environmental, ethical, and economic concerns of people to whom technology and technical assistance is being provided.
Wheelchair for Africa