In the Assistive Technology and greater disabilities community, “independence” has been a core goal and frame for making progress toward equality. Independence is often interpreted to mean that disabled people can and should live without help from others, and that assistive devices exist to displace reliance on helpers. For example, a wearable device that gives a blind person turn-by-turn directions through an airport displaces a sighted human guide. However, my work with people with disabilities in the home, in the workplace, and in public spaces has demonstrated that collaboration is a significant tool and goal of people with disabilities in their everyday lives. Further, social setting and human-human interactions significantly impact whether and how assistive devices are used. In this talk, I will share and unpack stories from people with diverse abilities to motivate the complementary notion of “interdependence.” I argue that assistive technology design through this lens provides an insightful and empowering alternative for assistive technology users.
Stacy Branham is a Lecturer in Information Systems at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). Her research investigates how technologies mediate interpersonal relationships, often with people who are blind. Her recent and ongoing studies explore how technology can engender safety as people with disabilities encounter law enforcement at protests, as blind parents care for their children at home, and as transgender people navigate violence in online and offline spaces. Common threads across her work include agency, empowerment, disability, gender, social justice, intimacy, interdependence, personal safety, and ethics in design research. Her research has been recognized with best paper awards at CHI and DIS. She has recently served as a papers AC for CHI 2018 and the Chair of the Student Research Competition for ASSETS 2017. She received her BS and PhD in Computer Science from Virginia Tech.