AGAINST TECHNOABLEISM: Rethinking Who Wants Enchancment, by Ashley Shew
Ashley Shew was instructing a category on cyborgs when she grew to become one.
In 2014, when she was in her early 30s, she was recognized with bone most cancers; she underwent a partial-leg amputation, after which she was fitted with a prosthetic foot and leg. A chemo drug affected her listening to, so she was additionally prescribed listening to aids. A thinker of expertise who teaches humanities programs to future engineers, medical doctors and nurses at Virginia Tech, Shew felt as if her new prosthetics had reworked her right into a real-life model of the artificial people she’d been lecturing on: a self-described “technologized disabled particular person — a cyborg, a cripborg.”
Shew’s new guide, “Towards Technoableism” — a time period she coined — is a type of introductory seminar on the ways in which our hyper-technologized age approaches incapacity. “Once I grew to become an amputee, folks saved reassuring me (really, reassuring themselves) that with superior and fantastic prosthetic applied sciences, I’d be again even higher than ever,” Shew writes, “superhuman, enhanced, a 10-million-dollar bionic girl.” She finds one of many clearest expressions of this titular perspective within the phrases of Hugh Herr, a double amputee who designs (and makes use of) futuristic bionic limbs on the M.I.T. Media Lab. “I don’t see incapacity,” Herr has mentioned. “I see unhealthy expertise.”
Shew acknowledges the transformative function that tech performs in her life; in her writer photograph, she affectionately cradles her unattached prosthetic like a ukulele. However on this sequence of brief, splendidly lucid essays, she argues that technoableism — the favored depiction of tech as a wholesale treatment for incapacity — does actual harm by positioning the disabled physique as basically damaged. The aim of present applied sciences is simply too typically rehabilitation into the mainstream — the amputee should stroll “usually,” the deaf particular person communicate, the autistic particular person have “quiet arms” — and it’s as much as engineering to get them there. Inside this framework, any risk of a joyful disabled life, lived with out the necessity for enchancment, is unimaginable.
Shew ultimately affixed googly eyes to the toes on her prosthetic foot in order that it may “stare again” at her, and he or she employs this identical playfully confrontational model in her writing. This model additionally displays the crossroads at which incapacity discourse now finds itself: directly a motion steeped within the vernacular of the extraordinarily on-line; an rising area of scholarship with its personal educational vocabulary; a civil-rights name for sweeping coverage change; and a marginalized id on par with race or gender. Because of this, a number of incapacity writing at the moment (Alice Wong’s “12 months of the Tiger”; Elsa Sjunneson’s “Being Seen”) blends structural evaluation, internet-chatty cultural criticism, scathing social-justice indictment and confessional narratives of medical trauma. “Towards Technoableism” is a vital addition to the style.