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What Can a Body Do?

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How We Meet the Built World

By Sara Hendren

Furniture and tools, kitchens and campuses and city streets—nearly everything human beings make and use is assistive technology, meant to bridge the gap between body and world. Yet unless, or until, a misfit between our own body and the world is acute enough to be understood as disability, we may never stop to consider—or reconsider—the hidden assumptions on which our everyday environment is built.

In a series of vivid stories drawn from the lived experience of disability and the ideas and innovations that have emerged from it—from cyborg arms to customizable cardboard chairs to deaf architecture—artist and design researcher Sara Hendren invites us to rethink the things and settings we live with.

What might assistance based on the body’s stunning capacity for adaptation—rather than a rigid insistence on “normalcy”—look like? Can we foster interdependent, not just independent, living? How do we creatively engineer public spaces that allow us all to navigate our common terrain?

By rendering familiar objects and environments newly strange and wondrous, What Can a Body Do? helps us imagine a future that will better meet the extraordinary range of our collective needs and desires.

Designed by Lucia Bernard

Published by Riverhead Books, 2020

Hardcover, 240 pages, 6 × 9 inches

ISBN: 978-0-73-522000-3