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Coreen McGuire
Jaipreet Virdi
, and
Jenny Hutton

This chapter explores the interrelationships between embodied knowledge and assistive technology. Its primary focus is on interwar developments to respiratory technologies in Britain, but explores more broadly the extent to which consideration of users and user involvement has featured in the design of various technologies to facilitate breathing. The chapter uses under-utilised primary sources from the National Archives and the Royal Institution to examine mechanical respirators such as the Bragg-Paul Pulsator, then develop this user-focused framework to consider the later rise of ambulatory oxygen for home use. Considering how users have mattered in respiratory assistive technology highlights the problems with prosthetic designs which fail to consider the full social worlds of the user. Understanding these problems necessitates awareness of the longer history of their development and the longer-term problems inherent to ownership of the air. This relates to the politics of nationalised healthcare because ambulatory oxygen was outsourced from NHS pharmacy control in 2006. The chapter therefore concludes with a discussion of how standardised technology currently affects diverse users’ ability to engage with assistive technologies.

in Patient voices in Britain, 1840–1948