Abstract

A naturalistic, ethnographic, phenomenological study of adaptation to wheelchair use was conducted with one key informant, a 30-year-old white man with acquired paraplegia who was undergoing acute rehabilitation. Primary staff members served as additional informants. It was found that adaptation to wheelchair use had both pragmatic and emotional components. The latter appeared in alternating phases of resistance and neutrality or detente. Therapist and patient had conflicting goals relative to wheelchair use, which occasioned considerable friction. The patient’s initial attitudes regarding wheelchairs were prejudicial, which hampered his ability to see the chair as a useful tool for mobility and independence. Successful pragmatic adaptation hinged in part on emotional acceptance of the wheelchair.

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