Interdependence as a Frame for Assistive Technology Research and Design

Cynthia Bennett, Erin Brady and Stacy Branham


University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA; Indiana University (IUPUI), Indianapolis, IN, USA; University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA, USA


In this paper, we describe interdependence for assistive technology design, a frame developed to complement the traditional focus on independence in the Assistive Technology field. Interdependence emphasizes collaborative access and people with disabilities’ important and often understated contribution in these efforts. We lay the foundation of this frame with literature from the academic discipline of Disability Studies and popular media contributed by contemporary disability justice activists. Then, drawing on cases from our own work, we show how the interdependence frame (1) synthesizes findings from a growing body of research in the Assistive Technology field and (2) helps us orient to additional technology design opportunities. We position interdependence as one possible orientation to, not a prescription for, research and design practice–one that opens new design possibilities and affirms our commitment to equal access for people with disabilities.

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