In an ableist world, health care systems and tech innovators are more invested in high-tech solutions and shiny objects that don’t consider disabled folks’ actual needs during the design process. Many in the disability and caregiving communities rely on their own creative hacks instead, leaning on a culture of collaboration and shared knowledge to make their day-to-day lives more accessible. And while it may be surprising to many, Amazon has emerged as a helpful tool for many disabled people to quickly get affordable, essential health care equipment.

That Amazon has stepped into the breach to fill a role all but relinquished by the health care system is indicative of a broader failure of social provisioning in the United States. While Amazon and insurance companies report billions of dollars in revenue, and innovators fantasize about the augmented reality glasses that will “fix” deafness, caregivers and disabled people are left to crowdsource improvised hacks to navigate a world indifferent—if not outright hostile—to their actual needs and desires. The failure to see disabled people as creative, collective forces worthy of our attention means that they’re left to make life work in a way that’s mostly invisible. Recognizing the creativity of disabled people, including those aging into it, can move us away from stigmatizing and toward valuing all the ingenious adaptations disabled people create.

Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.