Bespoke Innovations (http://www.bespokeinnovations.com/) is a company flipping the script of a deeply held, tacit but pervasive cultural convention: don’t look, don’t name. Folks with visible physical disabilities share an all too common social experience with obese people: invisibility (King, Shapiro, et al., 2005). Out of well-intentioned politeness, personal discomfort, negative judgment or a convoluted fear of making someone else feel self-conscious, people often look away and pretend they don’t notice when someone has a prosthetic leg. Now Bespoke Innovations wants you not just to look, but to stare.
By making prosthetics that are cool, Bespoke is challenging the convention that you should have to hide your replacement limb. Simultaneously, it is making it OK for observers to notice, not just the prosthetic, but the whole person wearing it.
I love the obviousness of what Bespoke is doing: taking what we can’t help but see, and making it something to look at. These cool artificial limbs aren’t just helping us to talk about the prosthetic elephant in the room: they remind us that treating people with dignity and compassion starts with accepting not just how they’re different from us, but how our own fears and biases shape our interactions with others.