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BBL: From Independence to Interdependence: A Social Narrative of Assistive Technology

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This week’s HCIL Brown Bag Lunch (BBL) will feature Stacy Branham from University of Maryland Baltimore-County. Her talk is titled: From Independence to Interdependence: A Social Narrative of Assistive Technology.


Time: 09/14 (Thursday) from 12:30-1:30pm
Place: HCIL (2105 Hornbake, South Wing)
Lunch: Free pizza!


In the Assistive Technology and greater disabilities community, “independence” has been a core goal and frame for making progress toward equality. This dominant narrative is often interpreted to mean that disabled people can and should live independently without help from others, and that assistive devices exist to displace reliance on helpers. For example, a wearable device that gives a blind person turn-by-turn directions through an airport displaces a sighted human guide. However, my work with people with disabilities in the home, in the workplace, and in public spaces has demonstrated that collaboration is a significant tool and goal of people with disabilities in their everyday lives. Further, social setting and human-human interactions significantly impact whether and how assistive devices are used. In this talk, I will share and unpack stories from people with various abilities to argue that assistive technology design through the lens of “interdependence” provides a more honest, respectful, and empowering alternative for assistive technology design.


Stacy Branham is a Lecturer in Information Systems at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). Her research in Human-Centered Computing contributes to the subfields of Social Computing and Assistive Technology by investigating how technologies mediate interpersonal relationships, often with people who are blind. Her recent and ongoing studies explore how technology can engender safety as people with disabilities encounter law enforcement at protests, as blind parents care for their children at home, and as transgender people navigate violence in online and offline spaces. Themes she investigates include agency, empowerment, disability, gender, social justice, intimacy, interdependence, personal safety, and ethics in design research. Her research has been recognized with best paper awards at CHI and DIS. Dr. Branham has organized multiple workshops at CSCW and CHI on ethics in design research, culminating in a Special Issue of Interacting with Computers. She is currently a papers AC for CHI 2018 and the Chair of the Student Research Competition for ASSETS 2017. Dr. Branham received her BS and PhD in Computer Science from Virginia Tech, with a specialization in Human-Computer Interaction.