Without technology, the human body is a pretty proscribed instrument. We cannot write without a pen or pencil, nor eat hot soup without a bowl and, perhaps, a spoon.
And yet, only certain technologies are labeled “assistive technologies”: hearing aids, prostheses, wheelchairs. But surely our pens and pencils, bowls and spoons assist us as well. The human body is not very able all on its own.
My curiosity about how we think about these camps of “normal” and “assistive” technologies brought me to Sara Hendren, a leading thinker and writer on adaptive technologies and prosthetics. Her wonderful site, Abler, was recently syndicated by Gizmodo. I talked to her about why crutches don’t look cool, where the idea of “normal” comes from, and whether the 21st century might bring greater understanding of human diversity.
I’m just dying to say, “Hey, do you ever feel like jumping off a bridge?” or “Do you feel an emptiness inside your chest at night that is going to swallow you?” But you can’t say that at a cocktail party.