Illustrative image for Public Events Series: The Art of Flourishing: Conversations on Disability

Public Events Series: The Art of Flourishing: Conversations on Disability

The Art of Flourishing: Conversations on Disability is a series of six public events in New York City during 2019 to 2021 that will explore how technologies can be used to promote or thwart meaningful, flourishing lives. Because people with disabilities are especially proficient at living in a world not built for them, they are often experts at negotiating technologies to seek their own flourishing.

The events, organized by The Hastings Center and supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, feature a range of scholars, artists, writers, and thought leaders with disabilities engaging in conversations about how they use — and why they may refuse — technology in their work and lives. The events are free and open to the public, and they are accessible to people with disabilities. (Pictured above: Alice Sheppard, in her wheelchair, rolls into a shoulder stand. Photo by Britten Traughber)

See resources for the series. Previous events listed below.

Event 3. Disrupting Ableism with Artful Activism

What will it take to bring about lasting justice for disabled people in the United States? When will every body—and every voice—be indispensable? Poets and activists Lateef McLeod and D.J. Savarese imagine a society led by people with disabilities and show how disabled communities are already building this world through creative forms of resistance.


Lateef McLeod is a poet, blogger, activist, and PhD candidate in the Anthropology and Social Change Doctoral program at California Institute for Integral Studies. His poetry, activism, and scholarship are all informed by his experience living in the Bay Area with cerebral palsy. He published his first book of poetry, A Declaration of a Body af Love, in 2010, and his second poetry book, Whispers of Krip Love, Shouts of Krip Revolutionin 2020.


David James Savarese is an artful activist and founder of Listen2Us: Writing Our Own Futures. The recipient of an Open Society Foundations Human Rights Initiative Community Youth Fellowship in 2017-2019, he is also co-producer and narrative commentator of the Peabody award-winning documentary Deej: Inclusion Shouldn’t Be a Lottery. A graduate of Oberlin Collegehe has published widely, including his chapbook, A Doorknob for the Eye, and a notable essay in the 2018 Best American Essays, “Passive Plants.”



Erik Parens is director of The Hastings Center’s Initiative in Bioethics and the Humanities, co-editor with Adrienne Asch of Prenatal Testing and Disability Rights, and author of Shaping Our Selves: Technology, Flourishing, and a Habit of Thinking.

Joel Michael Reynolds is assistant professor of philosophy and disability studies at Georgetown University, a senior research scholar in the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, and core faculty in Georgetown’s Disability Studies Program. He is also the founder of The Journal of Philosophy of Disability, which he edits with Teresa Blankmeyer Burke.

Liz Bowen is the 2020-2022 Rice Family Postdoctoral Fellow in Bioethics and the Humanities at The Hastings Center. Her scholarly work explores the intersections of disability studies, the environmental humanities, bioethics, and American literature. She is also the author of two poetry collections dealing with disability and chronic illness: Sugarblood (2017) and Compassion Fountain (2021).

Ralph James Savarese is the author of four books, including Reasonable People: A Memoir of Autism and Adoption, and See It Feelingly: Classic Novels, Autistic Readers, and the Schooling of a No-Good English Professor. He teaches at Grinnell College. 

Rosemarie Garland-Thomson is a professor emerita of English and bioethics at Emory University and a senior advisor and fellow at The Hastings Center. She is co-editor of About Us: Essays from the Disabilities Series of the New York Times (2019), a book based on The New York Times’s pioneering series.

Event 2. Navigating: On Disability, Technology, and Experiencing the World
September 29, 2020

[00:00-38:40 SPEAKER VIEW, 38:41-2:00:00 GALLERY VIEW]

Transcript for the event is available here.


Yomi S. Wrong. Wrong is a health care professional, freelance journalist, and disability justice activist whose talk will explore the relationship between assistive devices, agency, and desirability. She will identify a moment in childhood where she learned a hard truth about access to mobility equipment being central to identity development. And she will ask, what happens when assistive technology is stripped away or foisted on us? The ways disabled folks navigate and the experiences we have in the world qualitatively shift based on the tools at our disposal. The right devices can liberate us, provide a sense of identity and esteem, and offer clarity about who we are.

WATCH: Q&A with Yomi Wrong and Rosemarie Garland-Thomson.

Rod Michalko. Compared to most, navigating the world is different for Michalko. He is blind. Smokie, his guide dog, guided him for years; now he uses a white cane. Both ways bring the world to Rod and each takes blindness into the world differently. As a sociologist, he has written many books and articles about his experiences navigating–his favorite, The Two in One: Walking with Smokie, Walking with Blindness. He will speak of these experiences.
WATCH: Q&A with Rod Michalko and Rosemarie Garland-Thomson.

Kim Q. Hall. For Hall, queerness and childhood surgery shape a limping-swaggering mode of navigating the world that is situated between disability and ability. Hall considers the relation between heteronormativity, ableism, and technologies aimed at curing/eliminating disability. Hall is Professor of Philosophy and a faculty affiliate of the Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies program at Appalachian State University.
WATCH: Q&A with Kim Q. Hall and Rosemarie Garland-Thomson.

Event 1. Belonging: On Disability, Technology, and Community
December 3, 2019


Haben Girma, The first Deafblind person to graduate from Harvard Law School, Haben Girma advocates for equal opportunities for people with disabilities. Haben believes disability is an opportunity for innovation. She travels the world teaching the benefits of choosing inclusion, and has received numerous honors for her work. She is the author of the bestselling new book Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law.

Rachel Kolb, Rachel Kolb is a writer and a PhD candidate in English literature at Emory University, where her work explores ideas about deafness, language, the senses, and communication in American literature and culture. She graduated from Stanford University and was the first Deaf Rhodes scholar at Oxford. Her writing has been featured in The New York Times and The Atlantic, and she gave a TED talk at TEDx Stanford in 2013.

Teresa Blankmeyer Burke, The first signing Deaf woman in the world to receive a PhD in philosophy, Blankmeyer Burke is an associate professor of philosophy and faculty administrator of professional development at Gallaudet University. She characterizes her work as “deaf philosophy — the space where philosophy intersects with Deaf studies.” 

Erik Parens, senior research scholar at The Hastings Center, director of the Center’s Initiative in Bioethics and the Humanities, and author of Shaping Our Selves: Technology, Flourishing, and a Habit of Thinking, will introduce the event.

Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, professor of English and bioethics at Emory University and co-editor of About Us: Essays from the Disabilities Series of the New York Times, a new book based on The New York Times’s pioneering series, will moderate the conversation among the panelists.

Joel Michael Reynolds, the Rice Family Fellow in Bioethics and the Humanities at The Hastings Center and an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and author of Ethics After Ableism: Disability, Pain, and the History of Morality, will facilitate the sustained conversation with the audience.

Resources for this event:

Burke, Teresa Blankmeyer, “Gene Therapy: A Threat to the Deaf Community?” Impact Ethics blog, March 3, 2017.

Brenda Brueggemann, Deaf Subjects: Between Identities and Places, New York University Press, 2009.

Michael Chorost, Rebuilt: How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human. Mariner Books, Reprint edition, 2006.

Haben Girma, Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard, 2019.

Sarah Katz, “Is There a Right Way to Be Deaf?”, New York Times, November 7, 2019.

Rachel Kolb, “Sensations of Sound,” New York Times, November 3, 2017.

Rachel Kolb, “The Deaf Body in Public Space,” New York Times, September 28, 2016.

Rachel Kolb and Little Moving Pictures, “Can You Read My Lips?”, 2015.

Laura Mauldin, Made to Hear: Cochlear Implants and Raising Deaf Children. University of Minnesota Press, 2016.

Sara Nović, “Sign of the Times,” Guernica, March 14, 2016.

Sara Nović, “A Clearer Message on Cochlear Implants,” New York Times, November 28, 2018.

Gerald Shea, The Language of Light: A History of Silent Voices, Yale University Press, 2017.

Christine Sun Kim, “The Enchanting Music of Sign Language,” TED Fellows Retreat, August 2015.

(Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this event do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.)