A sense of control : a model of a virtual community for people with mobility impairments

Tilley, Christine Margaret (2006) A sense of control : a model of a virtual community for people with mobility impairments. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


This qualitative study develops a model of a virtual community for people with longterm, severe physical or mobility disabilities. The model also has implications for the wider community of people with disabilities. The study uses the Strauss and Corbin grounded theory methodology to inform the investigation from which a systematic theory has been developed. On the basis of this theory, the study proposes strategies for implementing the virtual community model.

In-depth interviews were conducted with twelve Queenslanders with paraplegia, quadriplegia or other severe, long-term physical or mobility disabilities and with six health care professionals, service providers, information personnel and policy advisers involved in their well-being. The methodology used one interview question to determine their experiences and perceptions regarding virtual communities and the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT). Each interview explored in detail the elements, enablers and barriers behind the usage of ICT and/or assistive technology.

The personal responses and narratives of the people with disabilities who use the technology and their allied health care professionals were analysed and interpreted for meaning before the transcripts were returned to these participants for validation. Rich explanations were derived. Details of the various response categories of these interviews were analysed as part of the grounded theory, constant comparison methodology, and the relationship to the literature was considered. These de-constructed meanings were compared and contrasted with those in the current literature.

The central theme to emerge from these narratives is that people with long-term disabilities regain a sense of control and independence in their lives through the use of ICT, as they move towards an on-line community. Other major themes that emerged from being on-line indicated that being on-line tended to break down people's isolation, while potentially changing the work paradigm (both vexed issues for people with disabilities). Information and communications technology and on-line communities offer ways to enhance every person's inclusion, participation and empowerment in our society.

The primary outcome of the study is a theory regarding the character of virtual communities for people with long-term, severe mobility impairments that stakeholders may consider whenever such a virtual community is proposed. The theory is represented as a virtual community model.

The model identifies the need for "a sense of control" as the foundational element of virtual communities for the disabled, and distinguishes the key domains in which disabled people participate in virtual communities. The barriers and enablers to their participation are specified within it. The model also provides a framework within which virtual communities can be facilitated. It melds six types of e-communities or sets of well-developed discrete categories (for example, themes, concepts) that the data from this study revealed: education-oriented, fantasy-oriented, information-oriented, interestoriented, relationship-oriented and transaction-oriented, depending on the type(s) of consumer need(s) to be met.

The study concludes that although the technology itself provides strategies for independence and thus facilitates self-empowerment, it is also capable of being disempowering. Many interviewees referred to this aspect as a "double-edged sword". Empowerment and dis-empowerment are intersecting processes because of digital divide and information literacy issues and this "double-edged sword", which virtual reality presents for people with physical disabilities. Based on the new knowledge and the model as the outcomes of this study, a range of recommendations are discussed that have application in the community for persons with mobility impairments.

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ID Code: 16308
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Bruce, Christine, Hallam, Gillian, Hills, Andrew, & Meyers, Neville
Additional Information: Recipient of 2006 Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Award
Keywords: Access, assistive technology, barriers, control, digital divide, disability, e-commerce, empowerment, grounded theory methodology, ICT usage, information, information and communications technology, information literacy, people with mobility impairments, portals for people with physical disabilities, technological literacy, telecommunications, tele-working, well-being, and virtual community., ODTA
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Department: Faculty of Information Technology
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Christine Margaret Tilley
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 04:00
Last Modified: 24 Jun 2017 14:39

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