Representations of disability and normality in rehabilitation technology promotional materials Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • PURPOSE: To explore the ways in which promotional materials for two rehabilitation technologies reproduce commonly held perspectives about disability and rehabilitation. METHOD: Our analysis was informed by critical disability studies using techniques from discourse analysis to examine texts (words and images) and their relation to social practices and power. Using this approach, promotional materials for (a) hearing aid and (b) robotic gait training technologies were interrogated using three central questions: (1) Who are represented? (2) What is promised? and (3) Who has authority? RESULTS: Messages of normalization pervaded representations of disabled children and their families, and the promises offered by the technologies. The latter included efficiency and effectiveness, progress and improvement, success and inclusion, and opportunities for a normal life. CONCLUSIONS: Normalization discourses construct childhood disability through texts and images. These discourses reinforce pervasive negative messages about disability that are taken up by children and families and have ethical implications for clinical practice. Rehabilitation has largely focused on "fixing" the individual, whereas broadening the clinical gaze to the social dimensions of disablement may lead to a more sensitive and informed approach within family-clinician discussions surrounding these advanced technologies and the use they make of promotional materials. Implications for Rehabilitation Awareness of the potential effects of implicit and explicit messages about disability in promotional materials may lead to a more sensitive and informed approach within family-clinician discussions surrounding rehabilitation technologies. In practice, it is important for rehabilitation professionals to remember that parents' and children's values and beliefs are shaped over time, and parents' and professionals' perspectives on disability strongly influence how disabled children internalize what disability means to them.

publication date

  • December 2014