“Against Technoableism” Review

The book cover is green and yellow with images of various assistive technology displayed all over the over. There are wheelchairs, hearing aids, canes, crutches, wheelchair vans, medication, glasses and more. The title is written near the top left and subtitle near the bottom right with the authors name to the left.Full Title: “Against Technoableism: Rethinking Who Needs Improvement”
Written by by Ashley Shew
Published by W.W. Norton, September 2023
158 Pages
Completed January 13, 2024

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.

This was a really good book – though it’s really meant for non-disabled people who don’t already know about the various issues discussed in the book. Most of the information in the book is stuff I’m already aware of as a disabled person. I wear a hearing aid and I know all too well that technology doesn’t fix everything. I’m still deaf if I don’t have them on or if the battery is running out or any number of situations. They also don’t work well in all situations because they amplify all sounds not just speech. So I’m always going to have difficulty in loud crowded situations. The book talks a lot about these kinds of situations where people assume everything can be fix with technology and that people won’t be disabled anymore. That’s not going to happen. Technology can do a lot of good things but there is a huge issue of people acting like technology can fix everything so there are no more problems for disabled people. Which results in people getting angry when people don’t use the technology.