2. Cultural Nuances

This section has two subsections 2a. Cultural Dimensions and 2b. Cultural Appropriateness

The definition for assistive technology has been discussed in the introduction and the one for culture is no less complex.  But in terms of a disability and assistive technology Ripat and Woodgate (2011) cite a series of authors when they say that:

“…culture refers to the beliefs, values, meanings and actions that shape the lives of a collective of people, influencing the ways people think, live and act.  These beliefs, values and ways of understanding are socially constructed and specific to the culture in which they are found.  The norms of a group or community often unspoken an unquestioned, results in the development of accepted rules of conduct as a member of that collective and are sustained by the social processes and interactions among group members.  Furthermore, cultured can be considered a dynamic process, formed by a complex interplay of meanings that represents an shapes the individual and collective lives of people”.

There is no doubting the importance of culture in terms of the development and use of assistive technologies.  It can be the very thing that prevents the user from adopting their technology whole heartedly for use in everyday life.  If the AT does not fit the individual perception of how it will positively change their identity within a social setting and be accepted by others, the item is liable to be abandoned.  Examples of how the iPad is being used for augmentative communication purposes illustrates how a ‘chic’ well accepted technology (that is accepted as part of everyday use in the western world) is more readily adopted compared to a specially designed communication aid, that may in fact produce better results, but looks unfashionable in the eyes of the user and is considered stigmatising and thus unacceptable. (Ripat & Woodgate cite Parette et al).