What is the role of technology in advancing the rights and welfare of about a billion individuals with disabilities in the world today? Is technological advancement a catalyst for a more inclusive society? How so? Does technology enhance access for people with disabilities, and access to what exactly? Does it ultimately and unconditionally lead to fostering respect for their human dignity? Is dignity relevant here and should we be bound by a timeless and universal understanding of that in assessing the present and future impact of technology on the well-being of people with disabilities? Most importantly, does and should technology change our understanding of (dis)ability? Does technological advancement change the relationship between law and disability? How?
This course is a collective exercise in tackling these and related questions in an introductory fashion. The literature on disability rights and technology is a tripod: ethics of approaching disability (such as questions arising from medical and genetic technology, artificial intelligence, human enhancement etc.); human and civil rights of people with disabilities and their full inclusion in the society (such as questions of standards of access and meaningful participation as citizens); and disability and development (such as questions around the role of technology in reducing socio-economic barriers and power disparities or creating new unanticipated forms of those among individuals with disabilities in the world or between the disabled and able-bodied population). We will become familiar with this tripod in order to understand the evolving relation between disability, technology, and law.
Central to this new path is a fundamental focus on the future of our understanding of disability in light of inevitable and fast-growing technological changes. Could it be the case that law’s anxious choice between a medical and social approach to disability will have to come to terms with new and further sources of confusion when the enabling or further disabling impact of technology will ruffle current conceptions of (dis)ability? If those definitions are destabilized, so shall the punitive, identity-protecting labels such as ‘ablism’ that further divides the disabled from the able.