itDf International Conference in Leeds: April 25-26

Stuart Murray

Featured image l-r: Emma Sullivan, Jamie Preece, Fin Tams-Gray and Graham Pullin presenting on voice and agency in Augmentative and Alternative Communication technologies

On April 25 and 26, members of the itDf team, partners and associates gathered at the Queens Hotel in Leeds to discuss the many interactions between disability and technology and reflect on their future relationships. The conference brought together scholars, designers, product developers, creative practitioners, disability activists and research facilitators from Canada, the US, Argentina, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK. Presentations ranged from representations of pregnancy and illness in contemporary fiction and problematic patterns of race in the development of socially assistive robots, to the power of advocacy and voice in assisted communication and crip approaches to the technologies of disability art. Over the two wonderfully stimulating days, as a collective we discussed many of the questions that have been central to the project for four-and-a-half years and it was special to meet in person collaborators with whom we have been in conversation across that time.

The Leeds conference was the second event (following an online workshop in January) in an innovative ‘Pathway to Publication’ route to develop a special itDf issue of BMJ: Medical Humanities that will appear at the end of the year. Leeds-based film company Adarak produced a film across the event, focused on both the conference and the project’s wider exploration of disability and technology, which will appear on the University of Leeds and BMJ websites.