Abstract

Disability theory suggests that built environments stigmatize wheelchair users. This article explores how wheelchair users resist stigma by altering possibilities for action, or affordances, in their environments by “fooling” or “tinkering” with things. I focus on wheelchair users in the US region of Appalachia for three reasons. First, academic studies of stigma against either Appalachians or wheelchair users tend to exclude people belonging to both groups. Second, Appalachia's particular forms of tinkering can complement existing work on affordance management by disabled people. Finally, the spatial and technological distance between many Appalachian wheelchair users gives them insight into how rural settings influence the collective manipulation of affordances. Results indicate that Appalachian wheelchair users tinker with affordances in a variety of settings and with many kinds of collaborators. Although not politically motivated in most cases, their actions nonetheless expose intersecting ableism and classism in American built environments.

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