Back to Program: April 25 | April 26 | April 27

Technology as a Freedom Tool in a Disabling Society: The Ambiguous Relationship between Disabled Users and Technology in Accessing Autonomy

Amanda Leckner, Hannah Jane Upson, Daniela Pereira

Date: April 25, 2023

Lecture: 12:30pm-12:45pm

Q&A: 12:45pm-12:55pm


How is technology as a freedom tool and an ambiguous concept for disabled users? Technology has been dominantly viewed as a means to save and cure disabled body-minds. A disabling society is one where the built environment rejects disabled bodies. The current dependence on technologies upholds the glorification of normalcy of the body. Alice Wong describes how the concept of technology for disabled people is fluid. When technology breaks down it exposes that the once provided freedoms were reliant on technology and are now no longer accessible for disabled people. Disabled people have been silenced in their relationship with technology by dominant media images. This study counters oppressive societal structures and instead views disabled people as users, experts, and creators of technology, offering a radical vision of the future where disabled people are actively incorporated into the public discourse surrounding technology.

In examining the first-hand narratives of disabled people through memoir, blogs, poetry, and more we find that: 1) how disabled people use and access technology as a freedom tool is dependent upon their built environment 2) disabled people’s relationship with technology as a freedom is culturally influenced. 3) Universal design actively breaks down some disabling facets of society.

Presentation slides: PPT | PDF

About the Speakers

Amanda Leckner

Amanda Leckner is a junior at Virginia Tech under the Department of Political Science, majoring in National Security and Foreign Affairs. She is a Coelho Law Fellow at The Coelho Center for Disability Law, Policy and Innovation. Her research interests include the intersection between disability, multiculturalism, and migration politics. LinkedIn | Email
A white woman with long curly brown hair posing for a camera. The woman is wearing brown framed glasses, a purple blouse that has a floral pattern and a purple jacket layered on top. The woman is standing outside and there is greenery behind her. The woman is smiling.

Hannah Jane Upson

Hannah Jane Upson is a senior at Virginia Tech majoring in Political Science with a minor in Medicine and Society. She is on the board of directors for the New River Valley Disability Resource Center. Her interests include ethics in public policy, disability culture, and reproductive justice.

LinkedIn | Email

A white woman with light brown hair posing in front of a tree with green leaves. The woman is wearing a black jumpsuit with long sleeves and smiling.

Daniela Pereira

Daniela Pereira is a junior at Virginia Tech majoring in Clinical Neuroscience with minors in disabilities studies, and medicine and society. She is a Fralin Undergraduate Fellow researching healthcare inequities in relation to disability. Her interests include socially-situated neuroscience research of mental illness, science outreach, and healthcare policy.

LinkedIn | Email

A white Latina woman with wavy brown hair and blonde highlights posing in front of a large field and college dorms. The woman is wearing a gold necklace, black and white striped shirt, and smiling with braces.
Sponsored By: