New Adventures 2020 – Liz Jackson's Productivity recreates disability

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This talk by Liz Jackson really made me question how we all see disability. Even those of us that think they are "on the right side", designing and building with accessibility in mind, can in some ways be as misguided as those who don't give it a seconds thought. "Disability doesn’t get funded we get fixed".

Here are my notes:

  • Liz was at a panel where they mentioned the “End of disability” and said “you wouldn’t have an end of women panel, why an end of disability”
  • Told head of SXSW about making an app, didn’t have an. Then launched Thisten at SXSW.
  • Before industrialisation disability wasn’t a thing, not a group. Just someone who was blind and someone with a cane who did the best they could
  • Suddenly for the first time there was a subset of people who couldn’t contribute.
  • Mantras of productivity recreate disability
  • Lego Braille blocks “about blind people but not for them” as no way to know what it’s about
  • By “surprising” an athlete with a contract it removed the professionalism that other athletes have. It’s not for people that have disabilities, it’s for everyone else.
  • Catalogued comments on YouTube vs amount of words disabled person says. Turns out the more disabled person speaks the less YouTube comments believe it
  • By saying you’re the first, you’re erasing disabled people. Lego Braille bricks put out Tack-Tiles, a company making the same product for many years but who couldn’t afford to sell at a good price.
  • “Disability doesn’t get funded we get fixed”
  • “We are perceived recipients of design” despite having been responsible for many major things like the bicycle
  • With fellowship
  • Lego changed. They credited someone with a disability who helped invent the product
  • “How do good intentions go awry”
  • What is design thinking? Created by white men at top of their professionals
  • Instead: Design Questioning
  • “When we’re finally able to question the systems that disable us, everyone involved stops seeing our bodies as the problem”
  • The word Empathy has only been around about 100 years. From German. Freud’s mentor discovered people are physically moved by works of great human expression. When that shifted to Empathy it came to mean feeling sympathy or pity for a persons situation or circumstance.
  • In this process, we lost the capacity to decipher one emotion from another
  • Empathy
  • 1. Reifies power structures
  • 2. Prescribes emotions (we think that feeling is doing and it is not)
  • 3. Silences the recipient
  • “Questioning systems has done more for me than empathy ever has”
  • “Are you thinking OF or thinking FOR”
  • “Thinking is elitist” who gets to be in the think tank who gets to be a thought leader or do design thinking. Are they just getting the credit?
  • “It feels we have become a project or a topic rather than discipline or craft. Where is the rigour”
  • Where is the art. The art is within the disability culture.
  • “Students don’t think they need to build real relationships with actual disabled people, they just think they need to feel empathy for us”
  • “When are we going to start investing in infrastructure?”
  • Amount of disabled students in one of the large design schools was 3x the national average.
  • Disabled people are the original life hackers. Having to sort things out every day
  • Let’s “honour the friction of disability”
  • Liz saw a massive bouquet of flowers in a bin in New York. Picked up tulips and put in office. Pulled out the cherry blossom and accidentally knocked over the trash can. Horrified for messing it up. Noticed on the ground there was a hashtag. It turned out it was public art not thrown away.
  • “Not all things need saving sometimes they just need to exist”