The tech industry’s sudden interest in the disabled is eroticly empty inspiration

“Beep beep.” High-pitched alarms tighten my empty stomach. Something was wrong with my mobility scooter, just as I was speeding through downtown Los Angeles to beat the Sunday morning rush at Eggslut. I’m afraid it’s the battery, but don’t want to admit it to myself. “I just charged you,” I scoffed under my breath. My stomach rumbles from the bacon sandwich I’ve been salivating since waking up that morning in November.

Halfway across the intersection at 6 and Hill, I heard it again: “Beep beep.” This time, the power meter turns red. The scooter stalled, just 10 seconds before the lights changed. With the flashing crosswalk counting down to my end, I flipped my seat into neutral, and my husband pushed me to the other side. We barely made it through before a convoy of sedans and SUVs sped past — never down to my eye level, and never imagined how terrifying navigating the street from below could be.

The battery has run out. So is my dream about Eggslut too. Time of death: beep beep now.

I checked my phone for repair and replacement parts nearby. The nearest store is 10 miles away. Even in one of the largest cities in the world, where the Grand Central Market boasts every international dish just a block away, there are only three wheelchair repair shops. The first store is closed and the second one is closed on Sunday. The third one has the part I need in stock… and should be able to get it on Thursday.

I will be stuck for five days. When my mobility scooter breaks down, I’ll be disabled again — by a inaccessible world not built for wheelchair users and lack of wheelchair repair shops. There’s a Starbucks around every corner but no portable batteries can be found. Coffee is not the fuel I need.

Then, with a new battery, 16.5 screws, and $140 in cash, “beep beep” is no longer an ominous sound to my life. My mobility scooter is still as good as new. I can surf easily! A feeling of relief filled my body like I had finally found the bathroom after holding it for so long.

But the beeps were only part of disabling. Even when the scooter is running at its highest state, the slanted walkways, rough asphalt roads and uneven pavement are difficult to move on wheels. Stairs, an insurmountable obstacle, seemed to be everywhere. Sometimes there are steps where the only reason to exist seems to be to stop me. There were no curbs every few blocks, so I had to step back and try another block just to get around.

My mobility is aided by my scooter but slowed down by an inaccessible world. Thirty years after it was passed in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (a civil rights law in the United States to prohibit discrimination based on disability) is an empty promiseA single bounced check isn’t enough to make the world accessible to all of us.

So it’s no surprise to learn the novelty of “latest” (read: repeat) technology when it comes to mobility-related disabilities that aren’t ramps or curbs or even sidewalks. flat, which is wheelchair to climb stairs. to the future,” with “intuitive operations” for “new generation,” sounds more like a sci-fi movie trailer than what I need from a wheelchair. The latest tech gadget climbs the stairs, connects to an app on your phone and can be yours for as little as $40,536.

“Thirty years after it was passed in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act… was an empty promise, a check that was bounced with insufficient funds to make the world accessible to all of us. .”

This is nothing new. Tech companies have always brought out what they believe to be innovations for the disabled community without consulting us. Yes electronic suits to help people with spinal cord injuries walk. Yes ASL gloves translate the ASL into text or speech while the wearer signs it. Braille decoder rings reads text aloud when the user taps words on the page.

These are examples of what Liz Jackson, founding member of the disability advocacy group The Disabled List, calls “disabled dongle: an elegant yet useless solution intended for a problem we never knew we had. ”

Sure, it can climb stairs, but can the power seats fit my Nissan Versa? Does it have a small enough turning radius to navigate cramped restaurants? When its battery fails, is there a repair shop nearby that can fix it, or will I be stuck again for the twelfth time?

We already know that people in wheelchairs cannot access stairs, but a wheelchair that can climb them is not a sustainable solution. A wheelchair that climbs stairs more expensive than I make in a year will help one person. A ramp costs much less and will allow access for hundreds of people — not just people with mobility impairments. Those with a stroller, bike ride, rollerblading, or heavy equipment transport will also benefit. This moon-rover provides access to one wealthy disabled person, rather than providing access to many. It’s how classist, elitist propaganda is used to make non-disabled people feel inspired on disability technology.

Moreover, many disability protection devices never even finish in production. They attract comprehensive press for tech companies, who use vague timelines and vain hopes without delivering on their promises. The disability lock becomes a red herring – a shiny object to distract people from believing that tech companies are working on accessibility. Noticeable technology companies, media frenzy, and then the company abandoned the project. Rinse and repeat.


Pamela Wilson of the US bends the stone during the 16th round robin match of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics wheelchair competition between South Korea and the US, at the National Aquatics Center in Beijing on the 10th. March 2022.

Lillian Suwanrumpha / Getty

It’s the tech version of erotic inspiration, objectifying people with disabilities so that people without disabilities feel good about themselves. That’s what disabled people used to do pointed out for a long timewithout the tech companies noticing.

Perhaps instead of creating a stair-climbing sci-fi device that no one asked for, communities could work on implementing gadgets that we did ask about.

What if instead of driving miles to a specialized wheelchair repair shop, computer and electronics stores carry our batteries? What if car sharing companies choose us at no extra charge to us? What if instead of generating a new disability key, we just enforce the ADA?

Tech companies use assistive technology as a sort of extra feature to already existing infrastructure, often after they’ve been sued by people with disabilities for inclusion. Instead, they should build with us and for us from the start.

this is not just on inclusivity; it is also profitable for the companies themselves. Disabled people are 15 percent of the global population. And follow World Health Organization, more than 2 billion people will need at least one assistive technology device within the next decade. Technology companies should design assistive technology with us to keep up with the growing number of people with disabilities in the world. They should hire more disabled people to develop technology that benefits everyone.

Disability is a creative force that invites us to re-imagine the world as we know it. Typewriter was created to and by a blind woman to send messages without a scribe. Text messaging designed for and with hearing impaired people to communicate. Everything from touchscreens to audiobooks, potato peelers to electric toothbrushes was created by and with people with disabilities. We are creative, imaginative, and innovating because the current world is not built for our bodies and minds.

“Technology companies should design assistive technology with us to keep up with the growing number of people with disabilities in the world. They should hire more people with disabilities to develop technology that benefits everyone.”

Even crossing the street is an impossible task when the world disables our bodies. That’s why in Singapore, people with disabilities use card to swipe at intersections allowing them more time to cross the intersection. Tech companies should put their money where they say “we love diversity,” by funding assistive technology-focused projects and making them affordable to with us when they hit the market.

You probably already use assistive technology every day when checking your phone or brushing your teeth. When we design for and for people with disabilities, the whole world benefits. Perhaps instead of dismissing our worries, listen to us. Instead of designing the next disability lock, innovate with we.

Imagine the world we can build together as we do. The tech industry’s sudden interest in the disabled is eroticly empty inspiration

Russell Falcon

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