Lost in translation: implementing personal assistance in an East Asian context

Yueh Ching Chou*, Bo Wei Chen, Teppo Kröger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Since 2012, Taiwanese citizens with disabilities have been entitled to personal assistance from local authorities. To explore current features of personal assistance and barriers to its implementation, and distinguish it from homecare services, 33 disabled people and 12 staff members representing 10 local authorities in Taiwan were interviewed. Findings indicate that disabled people prefer personal assistance to homecare and perceive that relationships with their families have improved since the availability of personal assistance. However, many users’ needs are unmet due to insufficient hours of service and costly co-payments. Results also show that development of personal assistance has been hindered not only by limited resource allocations but also by a lack of awareness of the concepts of independent living and personal assistance among staff. In the context of East Asian culture, independent living is misinterpreted as self-reliance, leading to the resurrection of the medical model of disability. Points of interest In Taiwan, personal assistance was launched by a pilot program (2008-2010) run by a disabled people’s organization. Since 2012, Taiwanese disabled people have been entitled to receive personal assistance from their local authority, but personal assistance has not been widely recognised by local authorities as an option to support disabled people’s independent living. As in Western societies, Taiwanese disabled people prefer personal assistance to homecare. Personal assistance has also promoted positive relationships within families. Limited resources and local authorities’ lack of understanding the meaning of independent living and personal assistance are the main barriers to the provision of adequate support. In the East Asian context, independent living has been misunderstood as self-reliance, suggesting no need for assistance or support, which has led to the domination of the medical model and of professionals’ and carers’ perspectives in the implementation of personal assistance.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages23
JournalDisability and Society
StateE-pub ahead of print - Jul 2021


  • East Asia
  • home care
  • independent living
  • medical model
  • personal assistance
  • Taiwan


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