Users' responses to assistive devices for physical disability

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Brooks, Nancy A.

Social science & medicine (1982). 1991; 32(12): 1417-24.


A mailed survey of scientists and engineers with disabilities was conducted to investigate how assistive devices for disability utilized in various social settings were perceived by persons with disabilities who also maintained valuable occupational positions. The respondents (N = 595) reported assistive-device utilization in social settings and user attitudes toward using assistive mechanical aids. The minority-group conceptual framework guided analysis of assistive technology as a symbol of disability. Variations in device use within public and private settings and differences in attitudes according to demographic and disability characteristics also are described. Findings show general user satisfaction with devices. Utilization varies among social settings and also varies by disability type, especially between persons with sensory impairment and those with nonsensory impairment. Public responses were not perceived to be problematic, although users do indicate that the actual application of devices may be unsatisfactory. Users' suggestions for further research chiefly propose examination of the systems that develop and distribute assistive devices. Results encourage examination of socioeconomic arrangements that reinforce the minority position of people with disabilities by restricting access to aids perceived as beneficial to social roles.

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