A Sociotechnical History of the Ultralightweight Wheelchair:A Vehicle of Social Change

Stewart, H. and Watson, N. (2020) A Sociotechnical History of the Ultralightweight Wheelchair:A Vehicle of Social Change. Science, Technology, and Human Values, 45 (6). pp. 1195-1219. ISSN 0162-2439

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Abstract

The emergence of the ultralightweight wheelchair has transformed the lives of millions of disabled people. It has radically changed the principles and practices of wheelchair design, manufacture, and prescription and redefined wheelchair users and wheelchair use. Designed and built largely by wheelchair users themselves, it was driven initially by a desire to improve sport performance and later by a wish for improved access to the community and built environment. In this paper, we draw on oral histories and documentary sources to reconstruct its sociotechnical history. We employ the analytical concept of "boundary object" to illuminate how the wheelchair as a technological artifact is implicated in relations of social change and show the role of wheelchair users in the development and emergence of the ultralightweight wheelchair. We highlight the tensions and negotiations within this history and the push and pull between different social groups. The emergence of the ultralightweight wheelchair helped to reconfigure ideas about wheelchairs and their users and allowed wheelchairs to gain a foothold within broader social and technological infrastructures. What makes this account powerful is that this is a success story for a group who have historically been excluded from design processes.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Science, Technology, and Human Values
Additional Information:
The final, definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal, Science, Technology, and Human Values, 45 (6), 2020, © SAGE Publications Ltd, 2020 by SAGE Publications Ltd at the Science, Technology, and Human Values page: https://journals.sagepub.com/home/sth on SAGE Journals Online: http://journals.sagepub.com/
Uncontrolled Keywords:
/dk/atira/pure/subjectarea/asjc/1700/1709
Subjects:
ID Code:
140209
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
22 Jan 2020 15:45
Refereed?:
Yes
Published?:
Published
Last Modified:
25 Sep 2020 04:44