The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


Victoria Austin

Victoria Austin

Name: Victoria Austin
Nationality: British
Thesis: Can technology be assistive in enhancing the inclusive citizenship norms and practices of disabled people and their communities? A case study of informal settlements in the Global South

Key Topics: Inclusive Citizenship; Disability; (Assistive) Technology; Informal Settlements

Undertaking this PhD is somewhat of a personal mission to further the theoretical and practical basis for social development (theory and practice) to address issues of disability more directly, without the reification of disability identity. My exploration of the role of technology is unapologetically pragmatic; technology is as one of the current levers of collectivisation that can enable pollical claims-making, but this is seen from a critical perspective. I have chosen to use the lens of Inclusive Citizenship because it enables a continued focus on agency and participation; and a conceptualisation of (assistive) technology within economic, political and social structures, norms and practices which recognise the centrality of power to freedom (and un-freedom) and justice (and injustice).  

My research is part of a DfID funded programme, AT2030, which aims to test ‘what works’ in enabling disabled people in the Global South to access to the Assistive Technologies (AT) people that need them (like wheelchairs, hearing aids, glasses, prosthetics and increasingly digital assistance or mobile apps). At present it is estimated that one billion people need these ATs and only 10% currently have access so this is increasingly being seen as a development issue which currently largely ignored. AT2030 tests new models in multiple ways with significant global partners across UCL and more broadly including WHO, UNICEF, and the Clinton Health Access Initiative (who were responsible for significant cost reduction for HIV drugs in the past two decades). My PhD research, is part of the Community Capacity Building element of AT led by Julian Walker at DPU, which addresses the experience of disabled people outside of the reach of the formal state of market support, looking at two informal settlement case studies which will be Freetown, and Dhaka (tbc).

I have worked on social justice for more than 20 years with the public, private and NGO sector, most recently leading the £10m Paralympic Legacy Programme from 2012 for the Mayor of London. My masters was also at the DPU (2015-2017) in Social Development in Practice. I speak terrible Spanish and will take any opportunity to improve!

Primary supervisor:  Julian Walker
Web profiles: www.disabilityinnovation.com
Other: Director of the Global Disability Innovation Hub and MSc graduate of SDP at the DUP (2005-2017 pt); learning Spanish and will take all opportunities to practice!