What is assistive technology? This month, The Atlantic explores the question in a fascinating conversation with Sara Hendren, who writes and lectures extensively about technology and accessibility.
Hendren believes “all technology is assistive” and that design should follow this premise. She explains:
By returning “assistive technology” to its rightful place as just “technology” - no more, no less - we start to understand that all bodies are getting assistance, all the time. And then design for everyone becomes much more interesting.
Beyond that, though, it’s useful to consider all the many, subtle, unvoiced “needs” that all of us are meeting via our technologies and extensions. Social needs, political needs, all kinds of things. Using your phone to avoid an awkward lull in a conversation. Using your headphones to create a kind of sphere of anonymity on the subway. Technology is nothing if not assistive! Its designed assistance is integral to its very coming into being. -- “Why Are Glasses Perceived Differently Than Hearing Aids?” - 12/3/13. The Atlantic.
Check out the entire story. It is an expansive and thoughtful discussion about what assistive technology is and should be, and what it means to be normal.
You can also explore Sara Hendren’s writing at Abler.