Date of Award

May 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Sciences


Jennifer Stromer-Galley


Accessibility, Design, Disability, Do-it-yourself, Human-computer Interaction

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


Human-computer interaction and assistive technology research and practice are replete with examples of mostly non-disabled individuals trying to empower individuals with disabilities through the design and provision of accessible products. This study asks one overarching question: what can these communities learn from the self-driven embodied experiences of individuals with disabilities who address accessibility, impairment, and everyday life concerns for themselves? The goal of this dissertation is to examine the underexplored adaptation, modification, and design-like activities of individuals with mobility and dexterity impairments as well as the implications of these activities for researchers, designers, and individuals with disabilities. This phenomenological study examined the embodied everyday life practices of 16 individuals with mobility and dexterity impairments as well as well as their efforts to transform disabling practices into enabling ones. Using sensitizing constructs from contemporary social practice theory approaches as described by Andreas Reckwitz and Theodore Schatzki as well Bruno Latour’s articulation of actor-network theory, this interpretive qualitative research study uncovers different ways participants were dis/enabled and dis/empowered in their daily life practices. Findings point to issues most HCI researchers and professional designers rarely consider in their efforts to study access issues and develop accessible technology, including the impact of the embodied perspectives of mostly non-disabled researchers and designers on the everyday life practices of individuals who live with impairments.


Open Access