All Technology Is Assistive

Six design rules on “disability”

Sara Hendren
Oct 16, 2014 · Unlisted
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
The Eameses’ unpainted wood splint, curved at its edges to keep the leg from falling off, with a targeted set of slots and holes for tying secure restraints. Bottom image courtesy of Hive.
Image for post
Image for post
A classic model of an Eames recliner and ottoman, each with an understructure of molded stained wood, highlighting the curve of the grain around its edges, and black leather upholstery.
Image for post
Image for post
Patient Marc Andre Duc wears a cap with electrodes next to a computer during a presentation of brain-machine interface by the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology of Lausanne (EPFL) in 2013.
Image for post
Image for post
A chart of a classical bell curve, this one measuring “the severity of language disorders.” Standard scores, as usual, fall into the widest part of the curve.
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
A man in an office environment moves easily among computer screen, keyboard, headphones, and smart phone.
Image for post
Image for post
The “Ekso,” a commercially available wearable exoskeleton, designed to encase the length of the body in a harness for support and augmented strength. It has enabled some wheelchair users to walk upright.
Image for post
Image for post

Invisibility is overrated.

Image for post
Image for post
A woman wears a necklace that falls from the back of her ears to form a lariat-style pendant beneath her collarbone.
Image for post
Image for post
A woman wears a jewel-like hearing aid, similar in size and shape to an earbud, draped around the back of the head with thin, elegant wiring.
Image for post
Image for post

Rethink the default bodily experience.

Image for post
Image for post
Georgia Tech researchers use a digital tongue receptor as a control device
Image for post
Image for post

Consider fine gradations of qualitative change.

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Left: A molded wood perch or chair, with curvilinear strands that welcome a sitter and a body that attaches to a telephone pole or streetlight. Right: The same Wanderest perch, this time with a human sitter in it.
Image for post
Image for post

Uncouple medical technologies from their diagnostic contexts.

Image for post
Image for post
Boxy upholstered chairs include square, arm-like extensions that press inward from the chairs’ edges — here embracing a young sitter.
Image for post
Image for post

Design for one.

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Left: A close-up view of white-and-dark-stained wood miniature sewing machines, each complete with “needle” and swatch of fabric. Right: A woman smiles in front of her own sewing machine and three small machine avatars that activate when her former colleagues are also sewing.
Image for post
Image for post

And this is perhaps the most important: Let the tools you make ask questions, not just solve problems.

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Left: A woman “trains” her fingers in the power gesture, with the metal tool braced between each finger tip, with nested holes for each digit. Right: A woman wears the Guarded Gesture, “necklace” of thick silver wire that ends in two curved resting bowls for her crossed forearms.

Image for post
Image for post

Backchannel

Mining the tech world for lively and meaningful tales and…

Thanks to Steven Levy

Unlisted

Sara Hendren

Written by

Fellow at New America. Artist, Designer, and Researcher in Residence at Olin College. Design / prosthetics / adaptive technologies / interdependence. @ablerism

Backchannel

Mining the tech world for lively and meaningful tales and analysis.

Sara Hendren

Written by

Fellow at New America. Artist, Designer, and Researcher in Residence at Olin College. Design / prosthetics / adaptive technologies / interdependence. @ablerism

Backchannel

Mining the tech world for lively and meaningful tales and analysis.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch

Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore

Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade