Welcome, reader! Abler is no longer updated, but if you want to get a sense for how you can use the content here, I’ve written some guides below. For Sara Hendren’s current projects and writing, see her site.
Rethinking the high-tech/low-tech divide. Conversations about prosthetics still tend to assume that complicated and next-generation technologies must, by definition, do their jobs with more acuity and impact than simple tools. But take a look at this elegant transitional cutlery, or read about the sophisticated mechanism of the white cane for navigating through space, no electronics required. You might also be interested in another kind of cane when it meets a bike or body socks for sensory processing challenges. And for more in-depth reading, see Audre Lorde’s thoughts on the politics of old-school prosthetics for post-mastectomy and David Edgerton on the shock of the old.
Design and disability at all scales. When most people hear “design” and “disability” in the same sentence, they tend to be thinking about artificial limbs, or super high-end wheelchairs, or 3D printed replacement parts. Those designs can be terrific feats of engineering; but it can be much more revealing to think about design operating at scales other than products. Consider this taste map of the London tube, or these Braille-friendly banjo tabs. Where do these kinds of designs originate, and what do they tell us about being human? Think, too, about access as a feature of good urban retrofitting or family-friendly transportation. And at the scale of buildings and plazas, take a look at the memorializing, haunting work of Anna Schuleit’s Bloom, or the monumental scale and visibility of Marc Quinn’s public sculptural work from 2005, Alison Lapper Pregnant. Thinking about these works as design, or as art, or as engineering is as complex as it is productive.