Cultural influences on perception of disability and disabled people: A comparison of opinions from students in the United Kingdom (UK) Pakistan (PAK) about a generic wheelchair using a semantic differential scale

Assistive Technology (AT) product use occurs within a socio-cultural setting. The growth internationally in the AT product market suggests that designers need to be aware of the influences that diverse cultures may have on the societal perception of an AT product through its semantic attributes. The study aimed to evaluate the visual interaction with an AT product by young adults from Pakistan, a collectivist society, and the United Kingdom (UK), an individualist society. A paper-based questionnaire survey was carried out with 281 first-year undergraduate students from the UK and Pakistan to evaluate their perception towards the visual representation of a generic conventional wheelchair image. A semantics differential (SD) scale method was used involving a seven-point bipolar SD scale incorporating sixteen pairs of adjectives defining functional, meaning, and usability attributes of the product. The mean (M) and standard deviation (sd) values were obtained for each pair of adjectives and compared between both groups by employing appropriate parametric tests. The results show that having a diverse cultural background did not appear to have overtly influenced the meanings ascribed to the generic manual wheelchair, which was unexpected. The University ‘Internationalist’ environment may have influenced the results. Some minor but critical differences were found for some pairs of adjectives (bulky-compact, heavy-light), having p-value less than 0.05 (p<0.05) that related to previous experience of wheelchairs and/or their use. Further studies are planned to investigate and validate outcomes with other student and non-student groups.