Against Technoableism: Rethinking Who Needs Improvement (A Norton Short) (Hardcover)
A manifesto exploding what we think we know about disability, and arguing that disabled people are the real experts when it comes to technology and disability.
When bioethicist and professor Ashley Shew became a self-described “hard-of-hearing chemobrained amputee with Crohn’s disease and tinnitus,” there was no returning to “normal.” Suddenly well-meaning people called her an “inspiration” while grocery shopping or viewed her as a needy recipient of technological wizardry. Most disabled people don’t want what the abled assume they want—nor are they generally asked. Almost everyone will experience disability at some point in their lives, yet the abled persistently frame disability as an individual’s problem rather than a social one.
In a warm, feisty voice and vibrant prose, Shew shows how we can create better narratives and more accessible futures by drawing from the insights of the cross-disability community. To forge a more equitable world, Shew argues that we must eliminate “technoableism”—the harmful belief that technology is a “solution” for disability; that the disabled simply await being “fixed” by technological wizardry; that making society more accessible and equitable is somehow a lesser priority.
This badly needed introduction to disability expertise considers mobility devices, medical infrastructure, neurodivergence, and the crucial relationship between disability and race. The future, Shew points out, is surely disabled—whether through changing climate, new diseases, or even through space travel. It’s time we looked closely at how we all think about disability technologies and learn to envision disabilities not as liabilities, but as skill sets enabling all of us to navigate a challenging world.
About the Author
Ashley Shew is an associate professor of science, technology, and society at Virginia Tech, and specializes in disability studies and technology ethics. Her books include Against Technoableism, Animal Constructions, and Technological Knowledge and Spaces for the Future (coedited). She lives in Blacksburg, Virginia.
In this series of short, wonderfully lucid essays, [Shew] argues that technoableism – the popular depiction of tech as a wholesale cure for disability – does real damage by positioning the disabled body as fundamentally broken.
— New York Times Book Review
Part memoir, part manifesto . . . this [is] an essential text for the nondisabled to use to educate themselves on the harms of technoableism. Highly recommend.
Amusing and persuasive . . . Equally fierce and funny, this will galvanize readers to demand genuine equality for people with disabilities.
— Publishers Weekly
This book is a really big deal. This is the kind of book that—decades from now—people will still talk about. This book marks a before and after. Before the word 'technoableism' and after the word 'technoableism.' People will say: We did not know what to call it. And then Ashley Shew named it.
— The Cyborg Jillian Weise, author of The Colony
Necessary and delightful. Ashley Shew teaches us an important framework for understanding the intersection of technology and ableism with clear prose and incredible charm, as her wry sense of humor jumps off the page.
— Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, author of The Disordered Cosmos
Against Technoableism reveals design justice not only for those with disabilities but for everyone who labors and lives with technology. It’s an outstanding book.
— Stephen Kuusisto, author of Have Dog, Will Travel
Authoritative, witty, thoughtful, and unafraid to throw a punch, Ashley Shew pushes us headlong toward a much-needed world in which disabled people are seen as experts in their lives, curators of their stories, and vibrant, essential, generative parts of our collective future.
— Ed Yong, author of An Immense World