Cripping assistive tech design How the current disability framework limits our ability to create emancipatory technology


Recent advances in assistive technologies have blurred the lines between compensating for impairments — for disabled users — and augmenting capabilities — such as with cobotic systems. This article examines how assistive technologies generally seek to compensate for a single deficiency, as opposed to being more generalist tools meant to improve the lives and autonomy of (not necessarily) disabled users. It starts with a brief presentation of the different frameworks used to model disability in the social sciences, and how some of these frameworks could be used to boost creativity in the design of assistive devices. It then showcases a series of examples where innovative design ideas allowed for devices that go beyond trying to fix disability and instead liberate their users. The article concludes with a reflection on the ethical interactions between transhumanism and disability, as well as the possibilities created by new distributed design/construction networks affiliated with open-source/open-design models. This reflection can serve as a basis for a discussion about the necessary evolution of industrial practices in the design of assistive technologies, no matter whether they are designed to compensate impairments or augment capabilities.

Service Oriented, Holonic and Multi-Agent Manufacturing Systems for Industry of the Future, SOHOMA 2021