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Can Paralympic sport break down barriers to assistive technology use in Africa?

17 September 2021

4 mins

The Para Sport Against Stigma project is an innovative, 4-year project delivered by Loughborough University London, in partnership with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and University of Malawi, Chancellor College. This project looks at how representation, education and communication in Para sport can break down barriers to stigma to support access and adoption of assistive technology. 

Nyasha Mharakurwa (Paralympian, Zimbabwe/IPC Membership Programmes Coordinator), Stacy Konadu Mensah (Para athlete Wheelchair Tennis, Ghana) and Patrick Yaw Obeng (Para athlete, Para athletics, Ghana) have written a captivating blog focusing on what assistive technology is, the lack of assistive technology in certain parts of Africa and the opportunity for Para sport to improve access to assistive technology. Check it out below.


What does assistive technology mean for people with disabilities? Why do only 15% of people who need assistive technologies (AT) in parts of Africa have access to them?

As a person with a disability, and a former wheelchair tennis player and London 2012 Paralympian from Zimbabwe, AT has been critical in my daily life and my sporting career. Earlier this year, I took part in a panel discussion about Para sport and AT during the Knowledge Exchange Forum for the Para Sport against Stigma (PSAS) project. PSAS is an innovative project that looks at how representation, education and communication through Para sport can break down barriers to stigma to support access and adoption of AT.

During the panel, we discussed what AT means, and how certain devices and equipment are key for persons with disabilities for their independence. AT is fundamental for persons with disabilities to access areas like education, employment, health services as well as many other rights. In parts of Africa, however, there is a serious lack of access to AT. High cost and unavailability seem to be the major barriers as a lot of AT and equipment is imported from outside the continent and therefore becomes unaffordable to many persons with disabilities.

In addition, there are also socio-cultural issues which become barriers to AT adoption, such as the stigma around disability in a lot of communities on the continent. This was a key aspect of the discussions was exploring the role that Para sport could play in breaking down barriers to the adoption of AT on the African continent.

Below, I share my reflections and experiences on this topic, drawing on comments from two fellow Para athletes from Ghana; Stacy and Patrick.


Photo credit: NM Foundation Trust Zimbabwe
Alt Text: 5 black male athletes enjoy a game of wheelchair basketball.

Stigma as a barrier to AT adoption in Africa

Stigma often leads to poor standard of living for persons with disabilities because of the exclusion in many aspects of life in society such as education, employment, and access to health care that follows it.

As Stacey noted: “People think we are slow in everything we do, especially when working with person living with disability and it results to unemployment”.

I feel that stigma is, in part, caused by a lack of understanding of something and depending on the conversations taking place on the issue in a community, false knowledge can be created and propagated on the group of people, such as the association of disability with witchcraft and evil.

To read the full article, please visit the AT2030 website here.


We would like to thank Nyasha Mharakurwa, Stacy Konadu Mensah and Patrick Yaw Obeng for sharing this blog. learn more about AT2030 here.

To find out more about the Para Sport Against Stigma project, delivered by Loughborough University London, in partnership with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and University of Malawi, Chancellor College please visit this web page.

Image credit: NM Foundation Trust Zimbabwe

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