International Symposium on Technology and Society 2020
November 12, 2020
Invited Speech: Everyday Experts: Transforming Research and Design Practices for Disability
Abstract: People are experts of their own bodies and minds. By taking the experiences, desires, and needs of people with disabilities seriously, we create better technologies, health infrastructure, social systems, and political structures. However, despite on-going dialogues among engineers about person-centered research and practice, disabled people still remain conspicuously absent from technology design. More often than not represented by flat personas that reduce disabled people to a list of functional impairments, the resulting technologies often embed stereotypes about disability in their design. Science and engineering that has not been attentive to the lived reality of disability has proven to not only be ineffective, in terms of adoption, usability, and abandonment, but contributes to non-inclusive, discriminatory and disenfranchising social and material conditions. Drawing on examples from media, disability activism, and my own empirical work on individual experiences of biomedical technologies, this talk will present an argument that current practices in engineering and design are insufficient and oppressive when they fail to acknowledge the embodied and experiential expertise of disabled people. I will conclude by providing a series of recommendations for transforming engineering culture and practice. These include creating and supporting pathways for disabled researchers, reimagining design teams to better incorporate and appreciate different kinds of expertise and embracing a willingness to shift between individualized and collective solutions.
Society for Disability Studies 2020
April 4-5, 2020, Online Only
Panel: Broadening Bodyminds, Remaking Safe Spaces
Presentation Title: “People Make Things Happen” DIY Diabetes Technology as Disability Activism
Abstract: Do-it-yourself artificial pancreas systems (DIY APS) can be characterized as both a set of technologies and a social movement. Sometimes known as hybrid closed loops or automated insulin delivery systems, DIY APS uses continuous glucose monitoring, insulin pumps, smart phone or smart watch technology, and open source algorithms to control insulin delivery (Crabtree, McLay and Wilmot, 2019). Emerging from communities of people with diabetes and their families, DIY APS is a direct response to commercial device manufacturers’ inability or refusal to respond to the needs, design requests, and perspectives of users of these technologies. Currently, more than 1,500 people worldwide have adopted DIY APS, and many more have adopted other related DIY diabetes technologies.
Drawing from a series of qualitative interviews with DIY APS community members and analysis of their open source community documents, I argue that DIY APS is an emergent form of disability activism in its (1) resistance to hegemonic assumptions about medical authority, and (2) privileging of embodied and experiential expertise. In conversation with Goodley’s (2014) neoliberal-ableism and Hamraie and Fritsch’s (2019) crip technoscience, this paper explores both how people with diabetes come to be held accountable for their nonnormative bodyminds while simultaneously having their knowledge claims invalidated by medical and social authorities. DIY APS critically disrupts this paradigm by shifting authority and credibility away from commercial medical device manufacturers and clinicians and onto people with diabetes. Further, the development of a coherent DIY community creates opportunities for alternative cultural imaginings about health, disability, and well-being.
African Studies Association Annual Meeting 2019
November 21-23, 2019, Boston, MA, USA.
Panel: Disability Rights in Kenya: Activism and Engagement with Communities
Date: November 22, 8:30
Presentation Title: Prenatal Genetic Testing and Congenital Disability: A Call for East African Perspectives
Abstract: While there is a proliferation of interdisciplinary scholarship on Western experiences of prenatal genetic testing and the social construction of congenital disability, this paper argues crucial insight could be gleaned from considering genetic testing and disability from an East African perspective. Biomedical technologies like genetic testing contribute to producing a medicalized framework for disability, which understands it as a biological characteristic detectable, preventable, or curable through medical intervention. This framework confers authority and credibility to medical experts, delegitimizes the experiential and embodied expertise of individuals with disabilities, their family, and informal carers, and demands personal responsibility from prospective parents to act as “good” citizens by managing and eliminating the social and political burden of disability where possible (Rapp 1999; Paul 1998). In East Africa, where neither access to safe abortion nor adequate supports for a child with disabilities are guaranteed, prospective parents are faced with a double bind in the pursuit of good parenthood and good citizenship. Further, the colonial history of Western technoscience, in which East Africans were cast as “living laboratories” in pursuit of Western medicine, provides a relevant backdrop to examine the “funneling of social concerns into a genetic prism” exemplified in genetic testing (Graboyes 2015; Bumiller 2009).
National Women’s Studies Association 2019
November 14-17, San Fransisco, CA, USA.
Panel: Toward a New Body Politic: Alternative Onto-Epistemologies in Birth, Dis/Ability, and Death
Date: Thursday, November 14, 4:10-5:25, Hilton Union Square, Nob Hill 08
Presentation Title: The Obligations of Agency: Biomedical Technologies and Dis/Ability
Abstract: Many biomedical technologies ostensibly serve to provide individuals with new forms of knowledge and agency. From prenatal genetic testing to open-source DIY modifications to insulin pumps, biomedical technologies are increasingly positioned in a rhetoric of individual autonomy. However, the biomedicalization of healthcare and force of neoliberal individual responsibility means the use of these technologies is coupled with a shifting of accountability away from systems and toward individuals. This paper will explore the obligations of ‘empowering’ biomedical apparatuses as well as implications on onto-epistemological formations of dis/ability, exposing spaces for radical reimaginings of technoscientific-enabled futures.
Society for the Social Studies of Science 2019 Annual Meeting
September 4-7, 2019, New Orleans, USA.
Panel: Creative Misfits II – Creating Categories: Disability, Agency, and Identity
Date: Thursday, September 5, 9:45-11:15, Sheraton New Orleans Hotel
Presentation Title: Account/Ability: Disability and Agency in Deep Brain Stimulation
Abstract: Interrogation of the social and material contexts in which biomedical technologies are embedded exposes tensions between personal and social responsibilities, contrasting constructions of disability, and competing models of healthcare. The confluence of the biomedicalization of health care and increasing reliance on emergent biomedical technologies (Clarke et al, 2010), neoliberal individual responsibility (especially as it relates to non-normative, ‘non-productive’ bodies) (Goodley, 2014), and the forceful rhetoric of progress and innovation (Franklin, 1997) produces socio-techno-political environment(s) driven by a curative imaginary (Kafer, 2013) in which bodily and cognitive differences are perceived as deviance and demand intervention. Experiential and embodied expertise can disrupt this imaginary, but are often unacknowledged in healthcare settings and research. Blending critical disability theory and feminist science studies, this presentation will summarize the preliminary findings of an on-going case study into the lived experience of receiving and using deep brain stimulation technologies. Leveraging qualitative interviews, content analysis of user-directed guidance documents, and digital ethnography of user communities, this study explores how biomedical technologies mediate the meaning of dis/ability, how agency and accountability are distributed across the socio-technical apparatus, and how autonomy and personal responsibility are articulated. This paper contributes to a generative and growing literature at the intersection of dis/ability studies and science and technology studies.