Mobility in wheelchairs: Bodily adjustment and practical arrangements within the social and physical space

Special report: Frontiers of humanity
By Myriam Winance


The author uses wheelchair mobility to examine the distinction (based on the historical opposition of two models of disability, an individual model and a social model) between the individual experience and the social experience of disability. In looking at the interaction between the person and the wheelchair, she demonstrates that there is continuity in people’s experiences: their mobility (its form and extent) is the result of a process of reciprocal adaptation with their wheelchairs and their environment, which involves their bodies. In this process, the status of the wheelchair (as an incorporated or outside object) and of a person’s space for movement (both social and physical) is correlatively and gradually defined. Analysis of these co-definition processes is important, because it allows us to identify the diversity of the resources, other people, objects, urban planning, and services upon which people rely in order to be able to move around and act in wheelchairs and in different public and private spaces.


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