All Tech is Assistive Tech

I’ve written about Sara Hendren and her mantra – “All Technology is Assistive Technology” before – both in my review of John Scalzi’s recent book (which is basically about assistive tech) and on the blog.

Hendren has a new piece over on Medium’s Backchannel exploring her mantra with 6 rules on design and assistive tech. Please go read it. The piece says so much about definitions of disability, representation, inclusion, and so much more, too much to summarize. I’m thrilled to have Hendren working in such thoughtful ways on the design side. GO READ IT!

The rules are:

  1. Invisibility is overrated (it’s ok to show the hearing aid)
  2. Rethink the default bodily experience (don’t try to build of an abled model)
  3. Consider fine gradations of qualitative change. (small cheap little shifts can matter)
  4. Uncouple medical technologies from their diagnostic contexts. (this one is complex and hard to summarize in a little phrase. It’s to take tech and remove it from the problem-solving of medical issues, I think, and consider affect).
  5. Design for one. (approach design for individual cases, though broader applications may emerge)
  6. And this is perhaps the most important: Let the tools you make ask questions, not just solve problems.
She finishes:

Let’s hope for objects that raise and suspend questions, and employ them alongside objects designed to solve problems. Then we can have a complex public conversation about needs and desires for interdependence. And about tools that provide assistance to every human body.

Every human body. Shoes are assistive tech. Shirts are assistive tech. Doorknobs are assistive tech. The work Hendren and her colleagues are doing to re-think our definitions is vital to our strange and unpredictable future that will be even more densely packed with human-technology interaction.

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