Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





David Chapin

Committee Members

Leanne Rivlin

Tomoaki Imamichi

Laxmi Ramasubramanian

Ellen Trief

Subject Categories

Environmental Design | Psychology


This multi-phase dissertation explores the role of agency and participation in the successful implementation of adaptations for disability. Utilizing an online survey examining the ways people acquire and adapt assistive technologies as well as a series of comprehensive collaboratively constructed “Adaptation Stories,” it examines the acquisition experiences of a sample of those who rely on adaptations and assistive devices.

Quantitative analysis of survey data suggests significant correlations between overall satisfaction with feelings of functional efficacy, overall satisfaction with involvement, overall satisfaction with perceived receptivity of the team, functional efficacy with involvement, functional efficacy with receptivity of team, as well as with user involvement and the perceived receptivity of the team to user input. Subsequent qualitative enquiry with a small sample of participants was supportive of these data trends.

Adaptation stories feature personal histories of equipment usage and a lifetime of experiences with device acquisition. Participants shared images of their choosing as starting points for discussion. Utilizing an ecological and environmental social science framework, this dissertation explores the integral role of the user (and their unique environments) in the adaptation acquisition process.

Inclusion of user input in design and implementation processes may contribute to increased satisfaction among users and allow for a higher level of overall functioning. Active participation appears to have a host of important benefits and the data this research generated supports this notion. The results here further suggest a need for humanizing rehabilitation practices and recognizing the value of individual experience. This project addresses fundamental issues of personal autonomy and agency as well as attempts to reconceptualize and broaden the concept of environmental press. Environmental efficacy is also introduced as an important mediating factor of function in space.

This work is embargoed and will be available for download on Thursday, September 30, 2021

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