UBC Theses and Dissertations
Considering and selecting assistive technology among individuals with disabilities : a social network analysis of decision-making Kardeh, Bahareh
Introduction: About 15% of the global population have some form of disability. Assistive technology (AT) has a key role in addressing the associated burden of disability, and refers to any equipment or tool that helps improve the individual’s function and independence in activities of daily living. However, many people with disabilities experience unmet needs and have difficulty accessing required services and AT. In this regard, individuals with disabilities are involved in a decision-making process that includes interactions with their social networks, which have not been explored. The purpose of this study was to investigate: 1) How people with disabilities make decisions about AT, 2) how their AT-related social networks are constructed and influence their decisions about AT, and 3) how users’ AT decision-making process is influenced by personal and external factors. Methods: A total of 13 participants took part in this mixed-methods study. Data were collected through an online survey and in virtual one-on-one interview sessions. The qualitative portion included semi-structured interview questions about participants’ AT decision-making process and their social networks. The quantitative portion involved personal information to describe the sample and contact ratings to elicit qualitative data. NVivo software was used to code verbatim transcripts. Results: A model was developed to demonstrate the AT decision-making process of participants. It included three steps: recognizing a need, obtaining information, and choosing and obtaining AT. The process was a cycle, where participants would move from step 3 to step 1 if they decided to make any changes to their AT. The influence of social networks was present in all three steps. Participants’ social networks included peers, occupational therapists (OTs), doctors, organizations, vendors, family and friends, and internet and other materials. These groups had unique as well as overlapping roles with varying degrees of significance. Conclusion: Despite the implications of AT in improving the quality of life of individuals with disabilities, barriers in AT access and use persist. Understanding users’ AT decision-making process and the construct and influence of their AT-related social networks, as provided in this study, can help us target issues that need to be addressed through effective interventions.
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