Communication Mediated by a Powered Wheelchair: People with Profound Cognitive Disabilities

Lisbeth Nilsson


Keywords guidance, interaction, feeling experiences, self-recognition, concept formation, orientation, intentionality, agency, communicative behavior Abstract The Driving to Learn project explored what people with profound cognitive disabilities could achieve from practice in a joystick-operated powered wheelchair and what facilitated their eventual achievements. Grounded theory methodology was applied for a project involving 45 children and adults with profound cognitive disabilities, 64 with milder degrees of cognitive disabilities, and 17 infants with typical development. The findings included two lines of development: (1) growing consciousness of joystick-use and powered mobility use, and (2) learning communication by driving. An emerging approach for facilitating tool use learning also nurtured the participants' alertness, attention to social exchange, development of sense of self, anticipation, intentionality and a will in mind that was communicated through showing by driving. Significance: Becoming capable of showing communicative intentions, even in a limited sense, changed the attention, interaction and responsiveness of social others. This in turn increased the participants' opportunities for development of more shared meanings and communication.


guidance; interaction; feeling experiences; self-recognition; concept formation; orientation; intentionality; agency; communicative behavior

Full Text:



Copyright (c) 2011 Lisbeth Nilsson

Beginning with Volume 36, Issue No. 4 (2016), Disability Studies Quarterly is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license unless otherwise indicated. 

Disability Studies Quarterly is published by The Ohio State University Libraries in partnership with the Society for Disability Studies.

If you encounter problems with the site or have comments to offer, including any access difficulty due to incompatibility with adaptive technology, please contact the web manager, Maureen Walsh.

ISSN: 2159-8371 (Online); 1041-5718 (Print)