Ageing with (and into) assistive technology: an exploration of the narratives of amputees and polio survivors

Lewis Johnstone, Ali Alumukhtar, Rebecca DePasquale, Narelle Warren, Pamela Block

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Purpose: Assistive technologies (AT) perform an important social role, interacting with cultural systems to produce or hinder accessibility to biosocial environments. This interaction profoundly shapes not only how an individual body can be experienced by users but also produce and hinder accessibility to biosocial environments. AT users have historically been viewed through a medical model, which deems them disabled by their impairments and by dominant ableist narratives. Therefore, this paper serves to provide an insight into the importance of ageing with and into AT. This paper aims to investigate polio survivors’ and diabetic amputees’ experiences of assistive technologies in order to better understand impacts upon narrative and identity. By applying an anthropological and sociological lens, a holistic view of the experiences of polio survivor and amputee AT users is developed. Method: This paper draws on 16 in-depth interviews with polio survivors and diabetic amputees in the United States (US) and Australia, which were analysed using an experience-centered narrative approach. Both projects were approved by ethics boards. All participants provided written consent. Results: Five themes were identified: a) disruption to biographies, which reflected AT impact on how narratives become altered; b) impacts to autonomy, which reflected the importance of regaining previous daily activities; c) re-engaging with community life, which highlighted how AT supported participation in valued activities; d) self-perceptions of assistive technologies, which act in opposition to external perspectives and challenge ableist narratives; and e) an intergenerational comparison of new and older AT users highlights the importance of temporalities. Conclusion: This paper offers new perspectives on ageing with assistive technologies, with a focus on identity and narrative. The importance of this paper is to contribute to the existing literature that demonstrates the cultural implications that arise through embodiment and assistive technologies.IMPLICATIONS FOR REHABILITATION The use of assistive technology can help individuals regain function, but the individual circumstances require consideration The use of assistive technology is a complex entanglement of bodies, environments, biographies, and imagined futures. The use of assistive technology can provide participants autonomy over their narratives and assist with maintaining their identities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)900-908
Number of pages9
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • amputation
  • Assistive technology
  • autonomy
  • biographies
  • polio
  • re-engagement
  • self-perception

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