Accepted Paper:

The disabled maker subject and the future of DIY Adaptive Technology  

Authors:

Cath Duchastel de Montrouge (York University)
Melanie Baljko (York University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper argues that an examination of maker spaces and subjects would be enriched, nuanced, and augmented by key concepts and framings from critical disability studies and Assistive Technology. How can the disabled maker subject reframe access to the maker movement as also a conceptual shift?

Paper long abstract:

Maker movement advocates have made claims as to the potential of DIY communities to democratize design and technology (Gershenfeld, 2007). Maker spaces have also been critiqued as exclusionary to most marginalized people and as elitist in their focus on cutting edge technological knowledge (Bardzell et al., 2014). We explore these conflicting ideas through the hands-on design and fabrication of TalkBox, a prototype for a DIY communication board for non-verbal users (Hamidi et al., 2014). TalkBox is a community-based project, incorporating a special education teacher, disabled contributors, and GaMaY Lab at York University. Its goals are to take the insights and needs of its users as the core and leading principle of technological design, evaluation, and end product utility. This has led to numerous iterations of TalkBox, and a continuing involvement of disabled contributors in the research and design process.

This paper argues that an examination of maker spaces and subjects would be enriched, nuanced, and augmented by key concepts and framings from critical disability studies and Assistive Technology (AT). Disabled people as makers, participating in maker spaces and practices, challenge narratives of the maker as normative, autonomous, and independent. The domain of AT proposes a compelling rationale for ongoing, sustainable changes to modes of research and design production. However, maker spaces offer more possibilities for participation and valuing than corporate design and production practices. How can the disabled maker subject and disability as design and fabrication opportunity (Pullman, 2011) reframe access to the maker movement as a needed conceptual shift?

Panel T107
Maker Movement, FabLabs, Hackerspace and improvisation: Science, Technology and Education by other means?