Technology Advances Essay

The idea of cure can lead to the erasure of identity, giving a false promise that technology can solve a cultural problem of barriers that exclude disabled people.In the 2008 documentary Examined Life, artist and activist Sunaura Taylor explains the difference between impairment, which she describes as “our own unique embodiments,” and disability, which is “the social repression of disabled people.” Disability, in this light, is a condition of a society that disables people.Technology can be used for care when it buttresses our autonomy and does not assume our decisions in advance.

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Last year, Microsoft published comprehensive guidelines on inclusive design, and accessibility has become a keyword for Apple and Google product narratives.

This shows a wider recognition that full inclusion depends on an inclusive design process: Disabled people are often invited to be subjects of user research. The generalization of individuals into a user group, categorized by their medical diagnosis, constructs crude, homogenized user stories that can lead to false assumptions about how technology impacts disabled individuals.

Community members pointed out that the Sign Aloud is designed for hearing people to understand Deaf people but cannot capture the actual, manifold ways Deaf people communicate with hand signs in combination with facial expression and body movement.

Though Sign Aloud was a misstep by student developers, its narrative resonates with efforts by major tech companies to make their products more accessible and inclusive for disabled people.

Such narratives in turn take space away from the public imagination about what needs to be done to abolish ableist thinking.

Care, in contrast to cure, is a form of stewardship between people who support each other in communication, action, and social engagement.A web browser can easily detect when someone is using a screen reader and direct them to limited functionalities specifically designed for blind users, even if they haven’t consented to being channeled to a separate user experience or asked for or wanted such functions.Leona Godin, a writer who holds a Ph D in 18th-century English literature, reports that when she accesses library websites they continually suggest she use a library for children and nonacademic readers who are blind.Artificial Intelligence, on the other hand, is often framed as the latest solution to complex problems, hyped and tossed around conveniently in all situations due to its ontological expansiveness.But systems of AI are already deeply embedded in our most mundane electrical communication, from what’s surfacing on your Facebook timeline, to search suggestions on Google and so on.This deliberation should not be seen as a matter of inefficiency but rather as a sign of care that cannot be automated.The slowness may be the integral element of human agency.Heather Vuchinich, who is a writer and astrologer, says that closed captions on television and movies “are often of poor quality, too small, or unavailable.” More important, she notes, is “the psychological effects of depending on technology for something ‘normal’ people take for granted.” Vuchinich sometimes jokes that she’s part “cyber” because of her dependence on hearing aids, but this sense of being cyber can also mean feeling subhuman.Even tech supposedly designed to “help” disabled users can sometimes discriminate against disabled people.It is actualized by extending one’s mindfulness of another person’s dignity and feelings, while respecting their independence.Care is made possible when parties are mutually accountable for each other’s well-being.

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