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Considering the concepts of the lived body and the lifeworld as tools for better understanding the meaning of assistive technology in everyday life

Journal article
Authors Inger Berndtsson
Published in Alter - European Journal of Disability Research/Journal Europeen de Recherche Sur le Handicap
Volume 12
Issue 3
Pages 140-152
ISSN 1875-0672
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Education and Special Education
Pages 140-152
Language en
Keywords Assistive technology, Lifeworld phenomenology, Embodied experience, Visual disability, Long cane, re-embodiment, Rehabilitation
Subject categories Occupational Therapy, Pedagogy


The lives of individuals with physical or perceptual impairments are often filled with various objects that support daily activities and are generally referred to as assistive technologies. These are usually understood as objects relating to individuals' functional capabilities. In this article, assistive technology is instead interpreted and explored in its subjective and social meaning by drawing on continental philosophy within a framework of lifeworld phenomenology and hermeneutics, putting forward existence, embodiment and the sociality of the lifeworld. The long cane as used by visually impaired and blind people is discussed as an example, based on results from two earlier empirical studies. Three themes or dimensions stood out in the analysis: one relating to intersubjectivity and the social world, another relating to embodiment and the lived space, and one in which the long cane is interpreted as a tool for building a new world. These dimensions have been discussed individually in philosophical terms to some degree. However, here they are intertwined and analysed based on empirical research on individuals in the process of learning or using the long cane in everyday life, which gives new meaning to the researched subject. (C) 2018 Association ALTER. Published by Elsevier Masson SAS. All rights reserved.

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