Popular narratives of disability and tired media tropes cast disabled people as moocher, fakers, pitiable freaks, shameful sinners, bitter cripples, or inspirational overcomers who do despite their disabilities. Designers and those imagining disabled bodies often come to understand disability as brokenness and aberration and seek to ameliorate bodies and minds through intervention, appropriate technologies, and gumption. This talk concentrates on two cases - exoskeletons and prosthetic arms - to talk about technological imagination in the design, gendered norms, and casting of technologies for disabilities. Using narratives from the disability community with reference to gendered design, this presentation will show how media, popular, and engineering representations of disability differ widely from the lived, embodied experience of these technologies. This project is part of a larger body of work that highlights how disabled people are technologized and scrutinized, how norms force and expect a world for those who stand upright, and how disability technologies are cast can reinforce ableism.
Dr. Ashley Shew is an assistant professor in the School of Science, Technology, & Society at Virginia Tech. She works in philosophy of technology on topics relating to emerging technologies, animals, disability, and environment. Her first book, Animal Constructions and Technological Knowledge, was published in 2017.