Is it time for the bio-psycho-social-tech model? A critical reflection by Luc de Witte

In her editorial in the journal ‘Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology’ [1]. Marcia Scherer raises an interesting issue. She states the technology has become so integrated into all aspects of our daily life that the bio-psycho-social model is no longer sufficient to understand that daily life and to guide interventions that aim to support people with functional limitations to perform everyday activities they have problems with. It is undeniably true that technology has become an important aspect in many people’s lives, and supports many in being active participants in society. But it is also true that the same technology can be a serious barrier to full participation for many others, and puts them in a disadvantaged position. And it is true that many people in the world do not even have access to the technologies that have become so familiar to many of us. When thinking about assistive technology and people with disabilities there is another important truth: in many countries the provisions systems for AT are (still) based on a – often very limited – medical model and the bio-psycho-social is something ‘far away’.

I am involved in a number of research projects looking at the daily living situation of people with disabilities in urban slums and rural areas in South East Asia. When talking to these people even the aspects ‘bio’, ‘psycho’ and ‘social’ fade away as totally irrelevant and unreachable. Shivani Gupta talks about invisible lives in her PhD thesis based on one of these studies [2]. And then adding ‘techno’…..? Should we not first make sure that people with disabilities have access to the most essential basic AT to have any chance of living a meaningful life?

Of course Marcia is right but there is serious risk that introducing an extended model while the original has not even gotten feet on the ground, leads to even deeper divides between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ in our societies. 


[1] Scherer M. It is time for the biopsychosocial model. Editorial. Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology.

[2] Gupta S. Invisible Lives. Tales of people with severe disabilities living in rural India. PhD thesis, Maastricht, the Netherlands, 2020.