Body-Chair: The Entangled Relationship between a Girl and Her Wheelchair

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The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between an adolescent girl with an orthopedic impairment and her wheelchair. The study looked at the relationship of a high

The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between an adolescent girl with an orthopedic impairment and her wheelchair. The study looked at the relationship of a high school female and how she views her wheelchair as a separate entity and not an extension of her body. This study also looked at how the relationship with her wheelchair had a profound influence on how she self-identified, as a “normal girl” and refuted the disability identity that was assigned her. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) states that there are about 6.7 million children in the U.S. with some type of a disability (NCES, 2019). Out of that number in the year 2015-16, there was a relatively small number of children with orthopedic impairments (i.e. 1% or 67,000). Approximately 16,640 of that number are females (NCES, 2019, OSEP, 2018, U.S. Department of Education, 2019). The NCES concludes that there are 0.8 percent of females between the ages of 3-22 that participate in some type of special education program at a public school in the Unites States.

This study moved away from the traditional humanist lens (human v nature) and instead employed new materialist and post humanist theoretical frameworks to explore the entangled material reality of the body-chair relationship. Exploring the body-chair relationship through a material discursive approach allowed for data to be read and re-read exploring the relationality between self and matter. The participant of the study refuted the notion to claim disability due to her ability to perform acts typical of a high school female (e.g. engage in social media, ride public transportation independently).

The results of the study suggest that a disability identity is multifaceted and diverse in similar ways, as are the people with impairments and disabilities. This dissertation provides the opening for further research to explore the disability identity and is not the final word. The relationality between self and matter is entangled with social discourse on what it means to be disabled. Questions not easily answered: Who gets to claim disability? Who does not? The implications for educations are numerous and profound.