Assistive Technologies

Disability and Assistive Technologies: The Place of the subjective dimension

Detail of the article

In recent years, many projects have emerged, aimed at designing assistive technologies for people with disabilities. However, the scientific community agrees that people with disabilities are often forgotten in the implementation of these research or design projects (Tréhin, 2004). This non-consideration of the person, from the physical and psychological points of view, can lead to a finished product which is a source of refusal because it is inappropriate, not meeting its needs and expectations (Arciszewski, 2005). Therefore, the involvement of people with disabilities in the definition of the specifications of assistive technologies appears as the only way to guarantee the usefulness of these aids, and to define a final product that fully meets their expectations. and specific needs (Bérard,

This article proposes, based on the evolution of knowledge about disability and a recent theoretical model, to highlight the importance of the subjective dimension in the appropriation of assistive technologies in people in a situation of handicap. At this level, subjectivity intervenes both on the experience and the representations of the handicap as on the technology of assistance. So what recommendations can the psychologist give for this appropriation to be as effective as possible? The response elements that are advanced are based on a multidisciplinary approach to the question.

What is disability?

If each of us has an idea of ​​what disability is, how is it scientifically defined today? Since the 1980s, a number of authors have proposed explanatory models to identify and clarify the components of the concept of disability (Delcey, 2002). The literature leads us to identify a certain number of models (Wood, 1980, Fougeyrollas et al. , 1998, World Health Organization, 2002, Hamonet & Magalhaes, 2000) which globally allow:

◆ to improve the communication between the person in a situation of disability, his family and health professionals,

◆ to propose a classification of the different dimensions of the handicap,

◆ to measure and quantify the elements constituting the handicap.

These models have been criticized because they exacerbate the effects of stigmatization, are too complex for everyday clinical use, or have different constitutive fields of imprecise disability and many overlaps or repetitions.

The Disability Identification and Measurement System (SIMH) by Hamonet and Magalhaes ( op.cit. ) Is the only model that goes beyond these criticisms. It defends itself to classify, but it makes it possible to measure and to quantify the elements constituting the handicap. It uses a common and positive language, and the proposed definitions of disability presented in the SIMH are based on:

◆ the simplicity of the terms, which allows the comprehension by all, even in the absence of training in the medical vocabulary, and which favors the translation in all the languages,

◆ the precision of the concepts which does not give place to the ambiguities,

◆ the coherence between the definitions and the content of the chapters they cover,

◆ originality and comprehensiveness with the introduction of the “subjectivity” dimension that is lacking in the other existing proposals,

◆ the possibility of integrating the becoming and therefore the future through rehabilitation,

◆ the flexibility and malleability that makes it possible to build a very large number of tools adapted to the objective sought by the measure of disability.

The SIMH defines disability as”The encounter between a person and a particular situation (obstacle) that interferes with the performance of one or more activities. These obstacles may be the consequence of a modification of the body, of abilities or of its subjectivity, but also of situations that are particularly demanding or compelling for the individual ” (Hamonet et al. , 2001: 24). Therefore, the concept of disability can be conceptualized according to these four dimensions: the body, the capacities, the situations of life, the subjectivity (figure 1).