The Myth of Neutral Technology



The meaning that assistive technology (AT) holds for the user is a key determinant of whether the device will be used or abandoned. Two concepts, stigma and liminality (existing in a state of transition), are used to frame users’ perceptions of the assistive technology they use, as generated through research projects investigating aspects of assistive technology use. Implications of the meaning of AT to the design and selection process are described. Assistive technology that is seen as a tool, as just another way of achieving a desired activity is much more likely to be assimilated into the user’s daily life. Technology perceived in this manner enables people to share activities with others and augment their personal abilities. Alternately, technology can be seen as a visible sign of disability, reinforcing stigma associated with a disability and the perception of the AT user as existing somewhere between health and illness. Individuals with this view of technology may avoid or resist use of technology, resulting in avoidance of meaningful activities and both social and physical isolation. These findings support the conclusion that technology is not neutral. Inclusion of users in both the design and selection process and understanding the meaning that AT use holds are integral to the development of assistive technology that achieves the desired outcome of enabling participation in daily life.


Occupational Therapy Assistive Technology Smart Home Spinal Cord Tumor Geriatric Rehabilitation 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Occupational TherapyUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada

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