Disability Studies As a Source of Critical Inquiry for the Field of Assistive Technology

1) Jennifer Mankoff, 2) Gillian R. Hayes, and 3) Devva Kasnitz


1) Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA
2) University of California, Irvine, California, USA
3) Devvaco Consulting & Society for Disability Studies, Eureka, California, USA


Disability studies and assistive technology are two related fields that have long shared common goals — understanding the experience of disability and identifying and addressing relevant issues. Despite these common goals, there are some important differences in what professionals in these fields consider problems, perhaps related to the lack of connection between the fields. To help bridge this gap, we review some of the key literature in disability studies. We present case studies of two research projects in assistive technology and discuss how the field of disability studies influenced that work, led us to identify new or different problems relevant to the field of assistive technology, and helped us to think in new ways about the research process and its impact on the experiences of individuals who live with disability. We also discuss how the field of disability studies has influenced our teaching and highlight some of the key publications and publication venues from which our community may want to draw more deeply in the future.

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