Let’s be genuine about how we (re)write histories

When I say AAC device what comes to mind? Is it the device? The technology? …Or the human who uses it?

Okay, I admit that was a bit unfair of me. I mean, I literally put “device” right in the question; it’s only natural for you to have thought of that first. But the point I’m making here is poignant nonetheless: that sometimes even the companies who design, make, and sell these pricey communication technologies think about the person second—or third or fourth or last—to the device.

Don’t just take my word for it. Meryl Alper draws attention to this issue in her think piece on the development of AAC devices. Notably, she says,

“[T]he history of AAC sheds light on the inexorable, but understudied links between the history of communication technologies and disability history… Individuals with various disabilities need to be recovered from and rewritten into the history of how communication technologies are designed, marketed, and adopted.”

When she says technologies, she refers to all means of writing and communicating. Not just the ones that are augmentative or alternative.

And when she says history she’s not just talking about days of yore. This is salient—this is now.

But this issue obviously isn’t isolated to AAC. Companies, researchers, and consumers consistently and persistently “forget” the humans behind the technologies.

For anyone who’s accidentally spent hours perusing #wokewashing, you know how real and fraught this product-over-person mentality is. (And just to address the students and teachers real quick, these issues crop up even in the classroom. Check this article out.)

Putting the human back into anything that has been systematically scrubbed of specific people’s presence is no easy job. So how do we go about “recovering” and “rewriting” like Alper suggests?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *