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Dance Disability and Assistive Technology.pdf
  • Merry L. Morris, University of South Florida
This dissertation explores the catalytic relationships between dance, disability, and assistive technology design, foregrounding the ways in which dance practice/theory can provoke a re-imagination of both disability and the assistive device design. The research delves into the ways in which dance practice is ideally situated to continue intervening in negative constructions of disability by intentionally provoking current signifiers which reify the disabled body as dependent, restricted, tragic, static, and powerless. Specifically, I investigate one powerful signifier: the assistive device (e.g., wheelchair, crutch, prosthetic). I seek a critical endeavor into how disability perceptions may be transformed through dance by re-imagining not only what the differently-abled body might do, but also what the device might do or become as an integral relational element between the body and the environment. I pursue this line of inquiry, in part, by exploring the experiential effects of a prototype wireless-controlled, omnidirectional powered wheelchair for dance, which I developed over several years in collaboration with engineers. Data included qualitative interviews and observations through direct engagement with dancers who have disabilities and use mobility devices under an approved IRB. As part of the research scope, participants explored their movement capacities in the prototype chair and responded to a common series of questions. Data collection further involved excavating the theoretical discourse about dance and disability while also examining relevant assistive technology/product design paradigms and theories.
This study is a pioneering research effort in assistive devices for dance, heightening attention to the interpersonal and embodied facets of assistive technology. Similar to the ways assistive device design has been challenged in Paralympic sports, I critically probe how dance is galvanizing space through assistive technology for differently-abled bodies. This research contributes new knowledge to the integrated dance field while carving an innovative space for dialogic intersections between the fields of dance, disability, and assistive technology design. Ultimately, I propose a new design paradigm from a dance lens: Embodied, Socio-Spatial Design (ESD), drawing from a Laban Movement Analysis framework. This research is situated at the threshold of burgeoning possibilities and challenges for dance practice, design practice, and disability issues at large.
  • Dance,
  • Disability,
  • Assistive Technology,
  • Design
Publication Date
Summer August, 2017
Field of study
Dance and Design Studies
Citation Information
Merry L. Morris. "Dance Disability and Assistive Technology.pdf" (2017)
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