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All Assistive Tech

AST – Week 1 Responses

I am not your inspiration

We’re objectifying disabled people for the benefit of nondisabled people.

This quote particularly hit home for me:

I use the term "disabled people" quite deliberately…we are more disabled by the society that we live in than by our bodies and our diagnoses.

Like most of humanity’s other problems, we decided, mostly through not making the effort to be more inclusive, that folks with disabilities struggle with access every day, in physical venues, online, and with other people. That means there’s no reason not to do better with our designs!

My 12 pairs of legs

So people that society once considered to be disabled can now become the architects of their own identities and indeed continue to change those identities by designing their bodies from a place of empowerment.

All Technology is Assistive

Like much of Backchannel’s posts, Sarah Hendren’s “All Technology is Assistive” presents an excellent argument. I found her reference of the Eames story particularly compelling:

Disability concerns are in fact an overlooked source of rich aesthetic ideas, with relevance and impact for design far beyond their immediate starting point.

During a Q&A in 1972, Charles & Ray Eames said, “Design depends largely on constraints. There are always design constraints, and these often imply an ethic.”

My first big coding project was a cooking app called Noodles. The idea was super simple—a private, personal library to keep all your recipes—and I made it mostly for my own family to stay organized. But unlike the terrible standard of accessibility for most cooking websites, I tested it with VoiceOver & made it keyboard-accessible, and I’ve received thanks from users for my sites’ accessibility. It wasn’t designed as a product for people with disabilities, it was just to be assistive to my family, but the technology benefitted many more people.

The same goes for popular products like AirPods Pro: they’re designed for everyone. But they enable features like Live Listen, allowing people—either in a noisy room or hard of hearing or deaf—to hear better. I firmly believe accessibility should be baked into products from the start, and included at no additional price. Every single member of my family, none of whom would traditionally be considered “disabled,” uses accessibility features on their phones/computers, from larger text to the Magnifier to grayscale color filters. “Accessibility tech” or “assistive tech” is & should just be “tech.”