Design Sciences | Faculty of Engineering, LTH

Positioning of Rehabilitation Engineering as a Field of Research

Certec's field is rehabilitation engineering. We endeavor to create useworthy technology by designing side by side with those who will benefit from our efforts. There is seldom a quick fix and behind the results achieved, there is an ongoing development of theory and methodology. In everyday situations, however, we often let the artifacts and results speak for themselves.

Positioning oneself in the field requires an indication of the boundaries, but the boundaries between related research fields can be "disabling" in themselves, especially for the person who is directly affected. After all, problems are seldom just medical or social or technical/pedagogical – there is simply a problem that needs to be solved. To highlight Certec's role in this, it is important nevertheless  to first show how we relate to other disability models before presenting the rehabilitation engineering one.        

Relation to the social model
There are two separate, previously established models in disability research. One is the social model, which places the affected person in focus and views disability as something that is primarily defined and maintained by societal norm concepts. Social model research is not tied to any kind of "social technology"; on the contrary it has, if anything, distanced itself from the field of design and technology.

Certec acts in the spirit of the social model and carries out research on the design of useworthy technology, technology that can satisfy human dreams, wishes and needs, while the self-image of the individual continuously improves. The greatest difference in relation to the social model, and the essential addition from our approach is that rehabilitation engineering (like all other technological research) is characterized by action research, an effort not only to understand in order to do but to to do in order to understand. The actual and even more so the potential influences of artifacts on humans and cultures today are irrefutable. For the situated individual – the person in his or her entire setting and situation – technical assistance is in no way an antithesis to human assistance. The most personalized assistance in all likelihood is a personalized combination of human and technical assistance, which to make doubly sure has to be able to work together.    

Relation to the medical model
The second model is the medical model, based on diagnoses and treatment, and is tied to medical technology. Since we at Certec proceed from the lived need rather than from the diagnostic need, we do not have many points in common with the medical model – but they do indeed exist. And when the actual solutions are such things as surgically implanted electrodes, medical technology and rehabilitation technology have considerable overlap.     

Rehabilitation engineering – a field of its own
Design wise, the pedagogical and technological "doings" are outside of what we can derive from the medical and social models. The former have their own theories and methods that often arrive at results unachievable through medical or social efforts. Certec's main contribution is a rehabilitation model, a model for the design of useworthy technology.

One theme can be traced through all of Certec’s concept development to the present. It started by describing our work as existing in the "meeting between human need and technological possibilities." When we saw how instrumentally this could be interpreted, we reformulated it to "the meeting between human dreams, wishes and needs on the one hand, and technological possibilities on the other." The following are some of our key documents:

  • 1990. (Re)habiliteringsteknik och forskningsbarhet (Rehabilitation Engineering and Researchability), Bodil Jönsson. Certec Report 5:90 (in Swedish).
  • 1995. Capturing better data, Håkan Eftring, Bodil Jönsson, Charlotte Magnusson. Usertalk, Issue 6, pp. 4-5.
  • 1995. (Re)habiliteringsteknisk forskning (Rehabilitation Engineering Research), Håkan Eftring, Bodil Jönsson, Charlotte Magnusson, Arne Svensk. Socialmedicinsk Tidskrift, vol. 72, no. 6-7, pp. 224-230 (in Swedish).
  • 1997. Certec's Core, describes the essence of Certec
  • 1997. Rehabilitation Engineering Research, Theoretical and Methodological Considerations, Bodil Jönsson, Peter Anderberg. The 4th European Conference for the Advancement of Assistive Technology (AAATE '97), vol. 3, pp. 351-356, Thessaloniki, Greece, Sept. 29-Oct. 2.
  • 1999. What is Right?, Annika Fält, Bodil Jönsson. Certec Report 1:99.
  • 1999. Håkan Eftring launched the concept useworthiness in his doctoral thesis, The Useworthiness of Robots for People with Physical Disabilities.  
  • 1999. Eve Mandre presented the role of education in "the design of useworthy technology" in her licentiate thesis, Designing Remedial Education: Education meets psychiatry.
  • 2001. Arne Svensk described in his licentiate thesis, Design for Cognitive Assistance, not only design of technological cognitive assistance but also how it can interact with human cognitive assistance (sometimes by replacing it or even accomplishing what it is unable to).
  • 2002. Eve Mandre presented once more the role of pedagogy in the "design of useworthy technology, but now in her Ph.D. thesis, From Medication to Education People with autism in adult psychiatry.
  • 2004. Bodil Jönsson et al. explain in this report of the International Forum on Medicines the difference between "Patient Provided Information" (PPI) and the "Patient Reported Outcome" (PRO). They often complement studies that are evidence based from a healthcare professional perspective. 
  • 2004. Situated Research and Design for Everyday Life, Bodil Jönsson, Lone Malmborg, Arne Svensk, Peter Anderberg, Gunilla Brattberg, Björn Breidegard, Håkan Eftring, Henrik Enquist, Eva Flodin, Jörgen Gustafsson, Charlotte Magnusson, Eve Mandre, Camilla Nordgren, Kirsten Rassmus-Gröhn. Certec Report 2:04, 2004.
  • 2005. Bodil Jönsson explain Design för den mänskliga sektorn (Design for the Human Sector) where technology interacts with at least two human parties (in Swedish).
  • 2005. The article, Ethics in the making, in Design Philosophy Papers deals with the ethical considerations that are necessary in action research. Bodil Jönsson, Peter Anderberg, Eva Flodin, Lone Malmborg, Camilla Nordgren and Arne Svensk.
  • 2006. The book, Design Side by Side (editor Bodil Jönsson, other authors: Peter Anderberg, Gunilla Brattberg, Björn Breidegard, Håkan Eftring, Henrik Enquist, Krister Inde, Eve Mandre, Camilla Nordgren, Arne Svensk, Ingrid Whitelock).
  • 2006. Arne Svensk's poster emphasizes how technology can illuminate hidden abilities and how this in turn provides a new kind of feedback to the people who use it. With that, the rehabilitation process spiral is in motion (in Swedish).
  • 2006. There is an illustration on page 8 of Camilla Nordgren's licentiate thesis, Societal Services and Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury: A Multifaceted interaction that illustrates all the actor involved in the process.
  • 2006. Peter Anderberg initiated in his doctoral thesis entitled FACE how Certec's research is related to the medical model and the social model. He also put forward rehabilitation engineering as a given complement to both of these models.
  • 2006. Björn Breidegard's doctoral thesis, Doing for Understanding On Rehabilitation Engineering Design, explains how it is the actual doing, the actual designing the enables an in-depth understanding of the actual situation that is difficult to achieve in any other manner.
  • 2007. Henrik Enquist problematizes in his licentiate thesis, Självbiografiskt skapande (Autobiographic Artefacting), the effects of all our contemporary distributed cognition, all distributed memory, that is to say, all of these distributed "I's". Who is it who ultimately learns? Who is it who ultimately rehabilitates? (in Swedish, but with appended articles in English).

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