This is the course information for Joshua Earle’s version of STS 3284: Tech & Dis, offered in Summer II of 2020 — it’s also on his website, CyborgApologist.com.
Summer II 2020 Syllabus
STS 3284: Technology and Disability
Instructor: Joshua Earle
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Office Hours: Remotely (via Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, or other program) by appointment
This undergraduate course is designed to introduce students to the material cultures surrounding disability, the social meaning of “health” technologies, and the lived experiences of those who deploy, resist, and wrestle with technologies aimed at their bodies and minds.
Having successfully completed this course, undergraduate students will be able to:
- Identify landmarks in the history of technologies for disabilities
- Understand the social and medical models of disability and how those play into technological design
- Recognize and critique common narratives and assumptions about technology and disability
- Analyze the relationship between disability studies and engineering orientations of disability
- Discuss contemporary issues and controversies about technologies for disability communities
- Identify, lift up, and defend the voices of disabled people in the context of policy and engineering
- Recognize ableism in social narratives about technology and disability
Specific topics include:
- Cochlear ear implants and hearing aids
- Prosthetic arms and legs
- Text-to-speech interfaces
- Apps for ipads aimed at a people with disabilities
- Closed captioning
- ADA specifications
- Mobility aids (wheelchairs, crutches, scooters, canes)
We will pay close attention to the historical and social contexts within which technologies are aimed at disabilities, resistance to and acceptance of technologies, and identity and passing in the context of technologies. In all these things, we will take disabled people as experts on the experience of disability and on disability-related technologies.
Accessibility for all students
Disability rights are civil rights, and disabled people fought hard to secure the rights to your accommodations in the classroom and workplace. Those people who fought for your accommodations were spit on, arrested, isolated, and dismissed, but they wouldn’t take less than they deserve when it came to securing your rights to access education and other public goods. They are my heroes, and their work also works to accommodate me within our classroom as a multiply disabled university employee. You can bet that I really want you to use your accommodations, or help you get them if you don’t have any in place, or find a system that works for us if you don’t care to go through the official channels. Most requests are easy – and you don’t have to be disabled or diagnosed to request from me; I am happy to distribute any in-class readings in larger or otherwise more accessible fonts, disability issue or not! And, if you need text-to-speech software to read aloud with you, I would love to introduce you to my friends in Accessible Technologies and then make sure you get the formats you need to use the AT.
1) Syllabus Quiz. Due by Tuesday Sept. 3. Worth up to 50 points, you can re-take it until you get 100%.
2) Question Formation Exercises. Due every week.
Part 1, the questions, is due by 5pm Wednesday. Ask two (2) “how” or “why” questions about your readings for that week. Each question should be about a different sub-topic that you chose for that week (e.g. if for week 2 you chose the Institutions and Stigma sections to cover, one question would be about the Institutions readings, teh other about the Stigma readings). You should include which section your question is about either in the header to your post or on the first line of the post. Follow your questions with a quoted and cited passage from the readings that inspired the question, and a 150-300 word explanation of why the question is a good/important one.
Part 2, answering 2 other questions, is due by the end of the day on Friday of that same week. Posit an answer to 2 of your classmates’ questions. At least one question you answer should be from a section you did NOT read that week. You should skim the piece from which the question was taken in order to gain some good context for the question itself. You should reference at least one of the readings (it can be the same one the question was about, but any quote you use should be different that the one used by the asker), but I urge you to try to use the readings you did to answer the question about the readings you didn’t. This should help you draw connections between the different reading sections. Please spend 150-300 words on your answer.
Worth up to 100 points per week (25 points per post (question or answer)), for a total of 600 for the semester.
3) Photo Essay. Take 3-5 pictures of various spaces to which you have relatively easy access (including being able to keep 6ft of physical distance from others). These pictures should capture some part of the built environment or infrastructure that you consider to be discriminatory to disabled people. Only one picture may be of any kind of discriminatory architecture (e.g. you can only have one picture of a set of stairs). Describe the image, and describe who it discriminates against, how it discriminates against them, and how it might be built otherwise to be non-discriminatory. Post your essay to the appropriate discussion board by 11:59pm Friday, July 24th. Worth up to 150 points.
4) Reflection 1. Worth up to 50 points.
5) Reflection 2. Worth up to 150 points.
Possible total points: 1000
Life happens. We get sick, we drink too much, we burn out and need a mental health day… it happens to us all. To that end, should you be so unfortunate to miss an assignment, or didn’t do as well on one as you would have liked, I allow for unlimited extra credit. You will need to pitch a project to me, discuss it in person or over email, along with a possible point total and rubric before you turn it in. Any extra credit must line up with the themes of the course, but in theory you could do none of the work assigned and still get 100% if you do enough extra credit. That said, the amount of effort per point for extra credit will usually be higher than your average assignment from the syllabus.
Principles of Community
Virginia Tech is a public land-grant university, committed to teaching and learning, research, and outreach to the Commonwealth of Virginia, the nation, and the world community. Learning from the experiences that shape Virginia Tech as an institution, we acknowledge those aspects of our legacy that reflected bias and exclusion. Therefore, we adopt and practice the following principles as fundamental to our on-going efforts to increase access and inclusion and to create a community that nurtures learning and growth for all of its members:
- We affirm the inherent dignity and value of every person and strive to maintain a climate for work and learning based on mutual respect and understanding.
- We affirm the right of each person to express thoughts and opinions freely. We encourage open expression within a climate of civility, sensitivity, and mutual respect.
- We affirm the value of human diversity because it enriches our lives and the University. We acknowledge and respect our differences while affirming our common humanity.
- We reject all forms of prejudice and discrimination, including those based on age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, and veteran status. We take individual and collective responsibility for helping to eliminate bias and discrimination and for increasing our own understanding of these issues through education, training, and interaction with others.
- We pledge our collective commitment to these principles in the spirit of the Virginia Tech motto of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve).
The Undergraduate Honor Code pledge that each member of the university community agrees to abide by states: “As a Hokie, I will conduct myself with honor and integrity at all times. I will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor will I accept the actions of those who do.”
Students enrolled in this course are responsible for abiding by the Honor Code. A student who has doubts about how the Honor Code applies to any assignment is responsible for obtaining specific guidance from the course instructor before submitting the assignment for evaluation. Ignorance of the rules does not exclude any member of the University community from the requirements and expectations of the Honor Code.
For additional information about the Honor Code, please visit: https://www.honorsystem.vt.edu/Links to an external site.
To add to this statement, please ask questions as we go if you want clarification on what is expected in this course.
Please be advised that, as a faculty member at Virginia Tech, I am a mandatory reporter, which means that I am obligated to notify the Title IX Office at Virginia Tech if I am given knowledge about sexual assault or violence by other employees and students. Confidential sources, those who do not have to report to the Title IX Office, include staff members at the Schiffert Health Center, the Cook Counseling Center, Virginia Tech Mental Health Centers, and The Virginia Tech Women’s Center.
Week 1, July 8-10: Disorientations
Wednesday, July 8:
- Read Magic Wand by Lynn Manning (Links to an external site.)
- Watch “Examined Life: Judith Butler’s Walk with Sunaura Taylor (Links to an external site.)“
- Read Chapters 1: Disability, 42: Normal, & 58: Technology from Keywords for Disability Studies (2015)
Thursday, July 9:
- Read: “Care Webs: Experiments in Creating Collective Access” from Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha (2018). pp 32-68. (See: Files, in epub format)
- Watch: Cripborgs Resist (Part 1)Links to an external site., by Dr. Ashley Shew on Disability Tropes
Friday, July 10:
- Watch Stella Young – I’m Not Your Inspiration, Thank You Very Much (Links to an external site.).
- Read: Goering – Rethinking Disability: The Social Model of Disability and Chronic Disease
- Watch: Cripborgs Resist (Part 2)Links to an external site., by Dr. Ashley Shew on Models of Disability and the limits of technological intervention.
Week 2, July 13-17: Violence Against Disabled People; State, Systemic, and Individual
Science as Violence
- Read Adam Cohen Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck (2016), Introduction and Chapter 1.
- Read Chapter 23: Eugenics in Keywords for Disability Studies.
- Read The Science of Human Perfection (2012) Epilogue
- Read: David Perry: We’re Failing our Test Run for CRISPR (Links to an external site.)
- Read Chapter 35: Institutions from Keywords for Disability Studies.
- Read this piece on the incidence of disability (not including mental illness) in Prison populations: https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/criminal-justice/reports/2016/07/18/141447/disabled-behind-bars/ (Links to an external site.)
- Read this piece on the incidence of Mental Illness in prison populations: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/numbers-mental-illness-behind-bars (Links to an external site.)
- Read this piece on Disability, Aging, and Nursing Homes: https://qz.com/1872956/is-there-a-better-alternative-to-nursing-homes/ (Links to an external site.)
- Read The Disability Gulag (Links to an external site.) by Harriet McBryde Johnson
- Read Susan Schweik The Ugly Laws: Disability in Public (2009) Introduction
- Read this Guardian Piece on how Up to Half of People Killed by US Police are Disabled (Links to an external site.).
- Peruse/listen to these NPR reports on the Americans with Disabilities Act, 25 years after its passing: https://www.npr.org/series/425918451/the-americans-with-disability-act-at-25 (Links to an external site.)
- Skim the ADA Checklist for New Facilities.
- Read Chapter 37: Stigma from Keywords for Disability Studies.
- Read Imani Barbarin: Things I’ve Learned in this Disabled, Black Female Body (Links to an external site.)
- Read Kim Sauder: When Accessibility Gets Labeled Wasteful (Links to an external site.)
- Read Bill Peace on why the MDA (aka “Jerry’s Kids”) Telethon is bad: https://badcripple.blogspot.com/2009/09/mda-telethon-is-destructive.html. (Links to an external site.)
- Alice Wong writes about Straw Bans: https://www.eater.com/2018/7/19/17586742/plastic-straw-ban-disabilities (Links to an external site.)
Interpersonal Violence (All of the Trigger and Content Warnings)
- Read Forever Small: The Strange Case of Ashley X (2015) by Eva Feder Kittay
- Peruse the website on the Disability Day of Mourning here: https://disability-memorial.org/ (Links to an external site.)
- Read or listen to this NPR report on sexual assault of Disabled People: https://www.npr.org/2018/01/08/570224090/the-sexual-assault-epidemic-no-one-talks-about (Links to an external site.)
Week 3, July 20-24: Infrastructure and the (Built) Environment
- Peruse the Project Sidewalk (Links to an external site.) website.
- Read: Do Artifacts Have Politics by Langdon Winner
- Read/Listen to this piece on Curb Cuts: https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/curb-cuts/ (Links to an external site.)
The Built Environment
- Watch David Laposky tours the new Ryerson University (Canada) Building (Links to an external site.).
- Read Callous Objects (Links to an external site.) (2018) by Robert Rosenberger.
War and the Military
- Read Chapter 4: “Will Not Let Die” from The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability by Jasbir K. Puar (2017)
- Peruse the Wikipedia pages on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) (Links to an external site.), it’s subsidiary the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) (Links to an external site.), and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) (Links to an external site.) organization.
- Read this piece on using Virtual Reality to treat PTSD in soldiers (Links to an external site.).
- Read Chapter 6 Bodies of Nature: The Environmental Politics of Disability from Feminist, Queer, Crip (2013) by Alison Kafer
- Read: Sunaura Taylor, “Vegans Freaks, and Animals: Towards a New Table Fellowship” (2013)
- Read this report on Climate Change’s disproportionate effects on disabled people (Links to an external site.).
Week 4, July 27-31: Digital Technologies and Media
Hearing Aids, Cochlear Implants, Audism and d/Deaf culture
- Watch Sound and Fury (Links to an external site.)
- Watch this TED talk by Heather Artinian (Links to an external site.), the young girl from S&F, 13 years later.
- “Stop Sharing Those Feel-Good Cochlear Implant Stories” (Links to an external site.)
- Sara Novic’s A Clearer Message on Cochlear Implants (Links to an external site.)
- Peruse this Page on Alexander Graham Bell (Links to an external site.) and his association with Eugenics and Oralism regarding d/Deaf people. Follow some of the links, and see where they take you.
Speech, Text, & Captions
- Read: Better Than Well (2003), Chapter 1: The Perfect Voice
- Read: Go Carolina, from Me Talk Pretty One Day
- Read this piece on YouTube’s terrible auto-captions (Links to an external site.)
- Read this piece on Advocacy for using alternate forms of communication (Links to an external site.).
- Peruse the Twitter hashtags #DisabilityTaughtMe, #DisabledAndCute, #a11y (which stands for accessibility, not ally), #DisabilityDongle, #SuckItAbleism. Try to find other disability hashtags, what are those about?
- Also, peruse the twitter accounts of Imani Barbarin (@Imani_Barbarin), Alice Wong (@DisVisability & @SFdirewolf), Jaipreet Virdi (@jaivirdi), Matthew Cortland (@mattbc), and Ashley Shew (@ashleyshoo). What topics are they discussing? With who?
- Peruse the podcast Disability Visability (Links to an external site.). Find 2 or 3 that you find interesting and listen to them.
- Revisit Care Webs (from week 1), paying particular attention to how social media is used in creating these webs.
Representation in Media
- Watch Code of the FreaksLinks to an external site. on representation in media.
- Peruse the Disability Tropes (Links to an external site.) on this website, pay particular attention to ones like “Abandon the Disabled,” “Blind Seer,” “Bury your disabled,” “Disability as an excuse for Jerkassery,” “Disabled Means Helpless,” “Eunuchs are Evil,” “Mental Handicap, Moral Deficiency” and the like. Which of your favorite shows and movies are listed?
- Read this piece on the portrayal of disabled people by nondisabled actors (Links to an external site.).
- Watch Fixed: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement
- Read Let COVID-19 Expand Awareness of Disability Tech (Links to an external site.) by Ashley Shew.
- Listen to Flash Forward podcasts: Bodies: INKRX, and Bodies: Ghostbot (Links to an external site.)
Week 5, August 3-7: Prosthetics and Transmobility
- Raman Srinivasan’s “Technology Sits Cross-Legged” (Links to an external site.) (full paper posted on CANVAS)
- Donna Walton’s “What’s a Leg Got to Do With it?” (Links to an external site.)
- Catherine Campbell’s “Giving up a 3-D Printed Prosthetic for a Different Vision of Perfect” (Links to an external site.)
- Rosemarie Garland-Thomson’s “Hands”
- Jen Lee Reeves’s “Prosthetics Do Not Change Everything” (Links to an external site.)
- Read The Audacity of Oscar Pistorius (Links to an external site.) by Fred Barbash
- Watch Murderball (See: Files)
- Read the Wikis on the Paralympic Games (Links to an external site.), and the Special Olympics (Links to an external site.)
- Additional Sports coverage: We’re the Superhumans (Links to an external site.) (Rio 2016), Rights Not Games Response (Links to an external site.), Adweek Coverage with Clips form individuals in the video. (Links to an external site.) Also check out recent Toyota ads (Links to an external site.).
- Nelson et al., “Transmobility” (Links to an external site.)
- Jillian Weise’s “Common Cyborg” (Links to an external site.)
- Haimrai & Fritsch: Crip Technoscience Manifesto
- Zoltan Istvan’s “In the Transhumanist Age, We Should Be Repairing Disabilities, not Sidewalks” (Links to an external site.)
- Rose Eveleth’s “The Hidden Burden of Exoskeletons for the Disabled” (Links to an external site.)
- Kim Sauder’s “When Celebrating Accessible Technology Reinforces Ableism” (Links to an external site.)
- Emily Ladau’s “Fix Discriminatory Attitudes, Not Sidewalks” (Links to an external site.)
Disability Dongles & Lifehacks
- Read Electric Moms and Quad Drivers by Bess Williamson
- Read s.e. smith’s piece on Disability Dongles. (Links to an external site.)
- Read Liz Jackson’s We Are the Original Lifehackers. (Links to an external site.)
Week 6, August 10-14: Neurodiversity and Crip Futures
Autism and ABA
- Julia Bascom’s “Quiet Hands” (Links to an external site.) (CW: abuse, forced compliance)
- Amy Sequenzia’s “Normalcy is an Ableist Concept” (Links to an external site.)
- “ABA” by Sparrow Rose (Links to an external site.) (CW: abuse)
- “Why I Left ABA” by Anxious Advocate (Links to an external site.) (CW:abuse) (Links to an external site.)
- ADAPT on the Judge Rotenberg Center (Links to an external site.) and ADAPTers tweet with the hashtags #stoptheshock and #ADAPTandRESIST.
Madness & Intellectual Disability
- Read Diagnosis and High-Functioning chapters from The Collected Schizophrenias (see: Files – epub format)
- Watch Intelligent Lives (Links to an external site.) via PBS
- Read Mad Studies and Neurodiversity: A Dialogue
Genes and Futures
- Sheila Black’s “Trying to Embrace a ‘Cure’” (Links to an external site.)and “Passing My Disabilities On to My Children” (Links to an external site.).
- HMJ’s “Unspeakable Conversations” (Links to an external site.)
- Chris Kaposky’s “Do We Really Need An Even Better Screening Test for Down (Links to an external site.)
- Katie Booth’s “What I learned…” (Links to an external site.)
- Alice Wong’s MEDx talk (Links to an external site.)
CRIPS! IN! SPAAAAAAACE!!
- Deaf Poets #CripsInSpace CFP Video with Sam de Leve (Links to an external site.)
- Crip Futurism Pep Talk (Links to an external site.) by Cyree Jarelle Johnson
- The Case for Disabled Astronauts by Sheri Wells Jensen (Links to an external site.)
- Damien Patrick Williams: Heavenly Bodies: Why it Matters that Cyborgs Have Always Been About Disability, Mental Health, and Marginalization. (Links to an external site.)
Disability in Fiction
- Read Bodyminds Reimagined: (Dis)Ability, Race, and Gender in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction, Introduction, Conclusion and 1 other chapter of your choice. Plus one of the following books:
- Kindred (Links to an external site.) by Octavia Butler (For Chapter 1)
- Stigmata (Links to an external site.) by Phyllis Alessia Perry (For Chapter 2)
- Parable of the Sower (Links to an external site.) by Octavia Butler (For Chapter 3)
- The Broken Kingdoms (Links to an external site.) by N.K. Jemison (For Chapter 4… this is the second book in a trilogy, fyi)