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Research Article  |   November 1993
Assistive Technology and the Newly Disabled Adult: Adaptation to Wheelchair Use
Author Affiliations
  • Pearl Sarah Bates, MA, OTR, is a doctoral student in the Medical Anthropology Program, Center for Social and Behavioral Sciences, University of California, San Francisco, 1350 Seventh Avenue CSBS-317, San Francisco, California 94143
  • Jean Cole Spencer, PhD, OTR, is Associate Professor, Occupational Therapy, Texas Woman’s University, Houston Center, Houston, Texas
  • Mary Ellen Young, PhD, CRC, is Assistant Professor, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas
  • Diana Hopkins Rintala, PhD, is Assistant Professor, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas
Article Information
Assistive Technology / Rehabilitation, Participation, and Disability / Special Issue on Assistive Technology
Research Article   |   November 1993
Assistive Technology and the Newly Disabled Adult: Adaptation to Wheelchair Use
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, November 1993, Vol. 47, 1014-1021. doi:10.5014/ajot.47.11.1014
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, November 1993, Vol. 47, 1014-1021. doi:10.5014/ajot.47.11.1014
Abstract

A naturalistic, ethnographic, phenomenological study of adaptation to wheelchair use was conducted with one key informant, a 30-year-old white man with acquired paraplegia who was undergoing acute rehabilitation. Primary staff members served as additional informants. It was found that adaptation to wheelchair use had both pragmatic and emotional components. The latter appeared in alternating phases of resistance and neutrality or detente. Therapist and patient had conflicting goals relative to wheelchair use, which occasioned considerable friction. The patient’s initial attitudes regarding wheelchairs were prejudicial, which hampered his ability to see the chair as a useful tool for mobility and independence. Successful pragmatic adaptation hinged in part on emotional acceptance of the wheelchair.