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  • 2016Topolphd

    Final published version, 2.76 MB, PDF document

    Available under license: CC BY-NC-ND: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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Manipulating affordances in practice: a hermeneutic phenomenological study of mobility impairment and uses of digital technologies in work

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date2016
Number of pages214
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This qualitative, interpretive study uses a triad of theoretical lenses - affordance theory, hermeneutic phenomenology and the social barriers model of disability - through which to gain an understanding of how people with mobility impairments use digital technologies in their work practices. A hermeneutic phenomenological methodology is used to reveal the phenomena, then to interpret the subsequent text through understandings of accessibility and use-potential which derive from the social barriers model and from affordance theory respectively. The significance of the study for policy, practice and research is a better understanding of how mobility impairment impacts workers who have historically and currently, been and remain, un- and under-employed. Eleven participants, all with mobility impairments, some self-employed and others employed, but all white-collar professionals or management-level ‘knowledge workers’, constitute the purposive sample used in the study. The participants all work in a variety of configurations of ‘flexible work arrangements’. What was found was that the primacy of space, place and the objects and technologies in that space has heightened significance for people with mobility impairments. When confronted with negative affordances which amount to potential or actual barriers to access and participation in workplaces, people consciously set about finding specific, unique and personal solutions in order to participate. What they learn, through metacognitive processes and in response to potential or actual barriers, is how to manipulate negative and non-affordances of space, place and technologies into positive affordances, by doing things differently, by doing things better, or by doing different things, in order to participate in work practices.