Disability, human rights to enablement, assistive technology, and enhancement

last updated August 18, 2013


My work on “scaffolded autonomy” gets much of its inspiration from with in disability studies, especially recent versions of the “social model of disability”.

I have been working recently on issues related to the recent UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, which makes very far-reaching claims about the human right to assistance in cases of impairment.

The implications for enhancement are interesting and complex.  Does, for example, a human right to enablement entail the moral legitimacy of certain forms of enhancement?  And if the will and mind are “extended” to begin with, don’t more more bits of the social and material world count as “prostheses” than is usually thought?

In December 2012, Jos Philips and I published a collection of essays we edited on Disability and Human Rights.  More information here.  The PDF for the book is available for free download here.

The discussions of enhancement raise fundamental issues about how we see ourselves as humans, a topic that is the centerpiece of a major multi-university grant project in which I will be participating in 2011-16, on the question of what the humanities can contribute to our self-understanding.  More on that project here.