Wearable Robotic Exoskeletons: A Socio-Philosophical Perspective on Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy Research

Alexandra Kapeller*, Michael H. Nagenborg, Kostas Nizamis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
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Recently, several research projects in the Netherlands have focused on the development of wear- able robotic exoskeletons (WREs) for individuals with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). Such research on WREs is often treated solely within the disciplines of biomedical and mechanical engineering, overlooking insights from disability studies and philosophy of tech- nology. We argue that mainly two such insights should receive attention: the ableism connected to the individ- ual model of disability and the stigmatization by as- sistive technology. While disability studies have largely rejected the individual model of disability, the engineer- ing sciences seem to still locate disability in an indi- vidual’s body, not questioning their own problematiza- tion of disability. Additionally, philosophy of technology has argued that technologies are not neutral instruments but shape users’ actions and perceptions. The design of WREs may convey a message about the understanding of disability, which can be comprehended as a challenge and an opportunity: stigmatization needs to be avoided and positive views on disability can be evoked. This ar- ticle aims to highlight the benefits of considering these socio-philosophical perspectives by examining the case of WREs for people with DMD and proposing design principles for WREs. These principles may enhance ac- ceptability of WREs, not only by individuals with DMD but also by other users, and help engineers to better place their work in the social context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)404-413
Number of pages10
Issue number1
Early online date26 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • Disability
  • Duchenne muscular dystrophy
  • Ethics
  • Philosophy
  • Stigma
  • Wearable robotics
  • Exoskeleton

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