As technology evolves, devices are becoming smaller, faster, and more discrete. What was once considered assistive technology for people with disabilities is now integrated into some of the most popular devices. iPhones, iPads, tablets, and e-book readers all have applications designed to help the user more easily navigate the device and find the information they need. This is certainly positive in that it increases access to and acceptance of assistive technology (AT).
It is increasingly common among those who help people obtain AT to focus devices that are inconspicuous, subtle and can blend in with what other people are using. This is a well intentioned response to people’s desire to not “look different”. Certainly, it is important to balance the person’s needs with their wants. Yet, in the search for the inconspicuous it is important to consider if we are sending negative messages about visible assistive technology. Some people don’t have the option to hide their devices or have technology integrated into a multi-purpose device like an iPad. Others may simply need or be more effective when using a device that is dedicated to the function it provides. (i.e. a Dynavox for communication). Are we reinforcing people’s shame about having a disability and needing to use AT?
Disability pride can be a difficult concept for people to understand. Why would a person be proud to have a disability? Because it’s important to feel good about who we are. It is difficult for anyone to love and take pride in themselves without loving and accepting all of their identities. Achieving disability pride can be difficult, yet is a healthy process that involves wholly accepting one’s disability as a natural part of oneself. Instead of spending so much time on the effort to conceal AT, shouldn’t we be making more of an effort to help people become proud of themselves and the technology they use? We send conflicting messages if we encourage healthy disability pride yet try to hide the technology that is a critical component of a person’s disability identity. For more information about Assistive Technology Pride, check out our webinar “AT and the Disability Identity”.
Ultimately the question seems to be: how do we remain responsive to people’s situations and wishes while promoting healthy disability pride?