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In Pursuit of Standardization: The British Ministry of Healthis Model 8F Wheelchair, 1948-1962

From: Technology and Culture
Volume 45, Number 3, July 2004
pp. 540-568 | 10.1353/tech.2004.0153


As Brian Woods and Nick Watson note, for millions of people the wheelchair has been a significant site of technological innovation over the last hundred years, yet few historians or sociologists have paid it much attention. With "In Pursuit of Standardization: The British Ministry of Health's Model 8F Wheelchair, 1948–1962, "Woods and Watson aim to rectify that situation, at least in part. The article surveys "the effects of the interplay between the state, medical professionals, and disabled peopleÑboth as individuals and in organized groupsÑon wheelchair innovation in Britain during the 1950s." Although it is "primarily a sociotechnical history of the emergence of a standardized wheelchair" that proceeds from a starting point in the social construction of technology approach, the authors are aware that a focus on "the circulation of power veils the processes of structural exclusion." They draw on the "social model of disability, first developed in Britain as a political tool to explain disability in social terms and later refined . . . as a sociological theory" to complement SCOT and shed light on "the relationships between wheelchair developments and the structural exclusion of disabled people."

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