2017 Computer History Museum Prize


Elizabeth Petrick, Making Computers Accessible: Disability Rights and Digital Technology (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015).

Prize Citation:

This is a groundbreaking book on an understudied topic in the history of computing. Petrick integrates histories of technology and civil rights and demonstrates the interaction of technological, social, and legal supports for accessibility. She uses disability studies frameworks to highlight how the shifting paradigms of “normality” and “universality” have shaped computer technology. She argues convincingly that principles of “universal design” that were aimed at making computers usable for the disabled significantly shaped the evolution of personal computer technology in general—thereby making the larger historiographic point that we can’t tell complete or accurate histories of computing without including (dis)ability as a factor. The book is clearly written and well-researched, with a helpful appendix on her sources and methods.

Prize Committee:

  • Joy Rankin (2017 Chair), Lyman Briggs College, Michigan State University, 919 E. Shaw Ln. E-35, East Lansing, MI 48825, USA
  • Janet Abbate, Dept. of Science, Technology and Society, Virginia Tech Northern Virginia Center, 7054 Haycock Road, Falls Church, VA 22043, USA
  • Hallam Stevens, Room 1705, 7/F wenke Building, China Center for Special Economic Zone Research, Shenzhen University, Nanhai Avenue 3688, Shenzhen, Guangdong, China, 518060

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