A picture of Megan in her wedding dress leaning on her cane with a river and skyscrapers in the background. A second picture shows her partner working on the cane while wearing a mask and a faceshield for protection.

Living Disability Theory

A picture of a carved wooden cane in greens and blues

It was my honor this year to participate in an auto-ethnographic effort to explore accessibility research from a combination of personal and theoretical perspectives. In the process, and thanks to my amazing co-authors, I learned so much about myself, disability studies, ableism and accessibility.

Hoffman, M., Kasnitz, D., Mankoff, J. and Bennett, C. l. (2020) Living Disability Theory: Reflections on Access, Research, and Design. In Proceedings of ASSETS 2020, To Appear.

Abstract: Accessibility research and disability studies are intertwined fields focused on, respectively, building a world more inclusive of people with disability and understanding and elevating the lived experiences of disabled people. Accessibility research tends to focus on creating technology related to impairment, while disability studies focuses on understanding disability and advocating against ableist systems. Our paper presents a reflexive analysis of the experiences of three accessibility researchers and one disability studies scholar. We focus on moments when our disability was misunderstood and causes such as expecting clearly defined impairments. We derive three themes: ableism in research, oversimplification of disability, and human relationships around disability. From these themes, we suggest paths toward more strongly integrating disability studies perspectives and disabled people into accessibility research.

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