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Now use assistive device

Codes and Frequencies

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USEDEVICE indicates whether the respondent or anyone in the respondent's family used an assistive device at the time of the interview. In 1990, this is a recoded variable which applies to respondents and their family members and is asked of everyone who did not refuse to complete the assistive devices supplement. In 2002, this question only applied to sample adult respondents and was asked directly.


This variable was generated as a recode for 1990 based on a series of questions which asked respondents if anyone in the family used any of the following aids: braces (BRACE); crutches (CRUTCHES), a cane (CANE), a walker (WALKER), or a wheelchair devices (CHAIR); special equipment for hearing problems, such as hearing aids, a special telephone, (TDD or TTY); special aids for vision problems such as white canes, but excluding eyeglasses or contact lenses; artificial leg, foot (ARTIFLEG), arm or hand (ARTIFARM); and communication aids for speech problems.

In 2002, interviewers prefaced the questions on special equipment by specifying that special equipment referred to hearing aids, wheelchairs, scooters, canes, prostheses, special phones, or special computer devices but not eyeglasses or false teeth. An extensive list of example devices is given in the Field Representative's Manual. In 2002, interviewers asked, "Do you NOW use any special equipment or assistive devices to aid you in your usual activities?"


While in 1990, the variable is produced from a series of responses, in 2002 this variable comes directly from one question. While likely globally comparable, these differences may lead some respondents to be considered as not using a device in one year who would have been considered to be using a device in the other year and vice versa.

Researchers should also note the presence of proxy reporting in 1990 but not in 2002. In 1990, a respondent representing the family could answer this question for other family members. In 2002, except in rare cases where disability precluded self-reporting, sample adults themselves answered the question. Generally, self-reporting is likely to be more accurate than proxy reporting; however, given the visibility of special equipment or devices to other family members, in this case, proxy reporting is likely to be comparable to self-report.


  • 1990: Persons who did not refuse to complete the assistive devices supplement.
  • 2002: Sample adults age 18+.


  • 1990, 2002