Beck Chamberlain Heslop
Envisioning Access: The co-production of technology and visually impaired users in Britain, c. 1960-1990.
Adopting methodologies from STS and disability studies to interrogate audio, material and textual sources, Envisioning Access investigates the co-production of visually impaired users and three mobility technologies: audible pedestrian signals (APS), long white canes, and the Sonic Aid. The project will explore how visually impaired subjectivity was configured, negotiated, and integrated into these technologies during their formative years, c.1960-1990. Charting the evolution of these technologies’ use and non-use is vital to understanding embodied interactions with technologies and, ultimately, building an accessible world.
The project asks how has the visually impaired user – projected and actual – shaped the production, meaning and use of audible pedestrian signals (APS), long white canes, and the Sonic Aid? Furthermore, what was the nature of contributions made by government bodies and charitable organisations, and how did these relate to the experience of visually impaired users? Finally, what does a user-centred approach to these technology histories reveal about the politics of agency, access and identity underpinning technologies produced for non-normative bodies?
I started my PhD at CHSTM in October 2022, having undertaken an MSc in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine in the department in 2021/2 thanks funding from the Wellcome Trust. My undergraduate degree was in History from Durham University, where I developed a passion for disability history. Outside of research, I advocate on issues surrounding disability, the LGBTQ+ community, and mental illness. Doing this, I have worked on projects with Leonard Cheshire, NHSat70, Time to Change, Clifford Chance, Josephine Butler College, and Kings College London.
Disability history, disability technologies, STS, lived experience, material culture methodologies, postwar British society, accessibility and the built environment, non/normalcy, intersectionality, and oral history