Challenges of user-centred assistive technology provision in Australia: Shopping without a prescription

Emily J. Steel, Natasha Ann Layton, Michele M. Foster, Sally Bennett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: People with disability have a right to assistive technology devices and services, to support their inclusion and participation in society. User-centred approaches aim to address consumer dissatisfaction and sub-optimal outcomes from assistive technology (AT) provision, but make assumptions of consumer literacy and empowerment. Policy discourses about consumer choice prompt careful reflection, and this paper aims to provide a critical perspective on user involvement in assistive technology provision. Methods: User-centred approaches are considered, using literature to critically reflect on what user involvement means in AT provision. Challenges at the level of interactions between practitioners and consumers, and also the level of markets and policies are discussed, using examples from Australia. Results: There is no unanimous conceptual framework for user-centred practice. Power imbalances and differing perspectives between practitioners and consumers make it difficult for consumers to feel empowered. Online access to information and international suppliers has not surmounted information asymmetries for consumers or lifted the regulation of publicly funded AT devices. Conclusions: Ensuring access and equity in the public provision of AT is challenging in an expanding market with diverse stakeholders. Consumers require personalised information and support to facilitate their involvement and choice in AT provision.Implications for RehabilitationVariations in approaches informing AT provision practices have a profound impact on equity of access and outcomes for consumers.An internationalised and online market for AT devices is increasing the need for effective information provision strategies and services.Power imbalances between practitioners and consumers present barriers to the realisation of user-centred practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-240
Number of pages6
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Client-centred practice
  • consumers
  • people with disability
  • policy
  • reform

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