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Lois M. Verbrugge photo

The Distinctive Benefit of Equipment Assistance for Disability

Publication Abstract

Download PDF versionVerbrugge, Lois M., and Purvi Harendra Sevak. 2001. "The Distinctive Benefit of Equipment Assistance for Disability." PSC Research Report No. 01-470. March 2001.

Personal and equipment assistance are often used to reduce disability in daily tasks. This paper predicts assistance use, type of assistance, and efficacy (improvement with assistance) for disabilities in personal care and household management tasks. Three types of assistance are studied: Personal Only, Equipment Only, Both. Efficacy is measured by comparing unassisted and assisted degrees-of-difficulty; we study reduction of disability (less difficulty with assistance) and resolution (no difficulty with assistance). We find: (1) High severity of a disability boosts assistance use, especially using Both. But when one type is possible, Equipment Only is preferred. Severely disabled persons are unlikely to resolve disability, but have good chances of reducing it. These results signal the group's limited potential for major improvement, but keen appreciation of functional gains and autonomy. (2) Equipment Only is more efficacious than Both or Personal Only for relieving disability. This likely reflects technical qualities of equipment and feelings of pride when using equipment. (3) Living with spouse eases getting personal help, but it encourages dependency attitudes and reduces perception of improvement. The distinctive benefits of equipment derive from objective and subjective facets of equipment. The analyses here give powerful impetus to policies that promote development and dissemination of assistive technology.

Dataset(s): National Health Interview Survey Disability Supplement (NHIS-D): U.S., 1994-1995

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