Cooper Hewitt presents “Access+Ability” with more than 70 empowering designs

Providing a major platform for the growing movement toward accessibility and inclusive design, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum presents products, projects and services developed by and with people with disabilities—physical, cognitive and sensory—that expand their ability to lead independent lives and engage more fully in the world.

Access+Ability is currently on display at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City. Chris J. Gauthier, Smithsonian Institution

Cooper Hewitt November 27, 2017

On view Dec. 15 through Sept. 3, 2018, the “Access+Ability” exhibition features more than 70 works, from adaptive clothing and eating implements that assist with daily routines to apps and “smart” technologies that aid in social interactions and navigating the environment.

“Cooper Hewitt is committed to accessibility in its broadest sense, with exhibitions and programs that involve all communities in thinking about how design can empower users,” said Caroline Baumann, director of the museum. “The diversity of works on view in Access+Ability embrace the latest developments in digital technologies and fabrication methods, along with a user-driven focus on enhancing what people can do when given the opportunity. In partnership with the New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, the exhibition will be accompanied by our first-ever Cooper Hewitt Lab, a two-week-long series of programs in the Barbara and Morton Mandel Design Gallery to further the dialogue about inclusive design.”

Superflex powered suit in the foreground. There has been a surge of design with and by people with a wide range of physical, cognitive, and sensory abilities. Fueled by advances in research, technology, and fabrication, this proliferation of functional, life-enhancing products is creating unprecedented access in homes, schools, workplaces, and the world at large. Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

“Access+Ability” will be installed in the museum’s first floor Process Galleries and organized into three sections: Moving, Connecting, and Living. To inform the selection of objects, co-curators Cara McCarty, Director of Curatorial at Cooper Hewitt, and Rochelle Steiner, Curator and Professor of Critical Studies at the Roski School of Art & Design, University of Southern California, engaged with users, designers, caregivers, activists, occupational therapists and neuroscientists, among others.

A variety of interactive elements will be installed throughout the exhibition to engage visitors, underscoring the importance of prioritizing users throughout the design process. These include: Blindways, an app designed and developed by Perkins School for the Blind, which guides pedestrians who are blind to bus stops using community crowdsourced clues; the eye-tracking, speech-generating devices of Tobii Dynavox, which enable hands-free communication and computer access; and several of Apple’s accessibility apps that operate via Switch Control, VoiceOver or voice-command software.

Who knew? So much innovation in walking sticks and canes. Enlightening new survey of accessible design. Anne Quito @annequito Twitter 15 Dec 2017

From increasingly versatile canes and customized prosthetic leg covers to shirts with magnetic closures and shoes with a wrap-around zipper system, the exhibition shows how products created over the past decade are not only becoming more accessible and functional, but fashionable. Through the integration of groundbreaking assistive technologies, 3-D printing and haptic feedback, new design solutions are also extending sensory perception, providing new ways to navigate and negotiate the environment, and promoting greater access to sports and recreation.

In an effort to respond to the proliferation of new products, a gallery adjacent to the exhibition will be devoted to several rotations of new work as well as crowd-sourced suggestions of innovative, accessible objects and services. The museum will also host a stimulating, ongoing online conversation on, with contributions by prominent figures in the accessibility movement.

Highlights of objects on view include:

 Racing Wheelchair, 2016 –  designed by BMW Designworks, in collaboration with athletes Tatyana McFadden and Chelsea McClammer. Using 3-D scans, the wheelchairs were customized to improve aerodynamics, safety, durability and ergonomics, leading McFadden and McClammer to win four medals in the 2016 Summer Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
 PillPack, 2013 –  designed by Gen Suzuki and collaborators at IDEO, a service that assists people with managing multiple daily medications, pre-sorting and organizing medication into pouches, labeled with the day and time for each dosage.
The inclusive Los Angeles County Voting Booth, (prototype to be produced for the 2020 election), 2015 –   designed by IDEO, Digital Foundry and Cambridge Consultants, addresses all types of voters, including people unfamiliar with technology and who speak languages other than English, who are hard of hearing or have limited vision, in wheelchairs, and with learning disabilities.
 Prosthetic Leg Covers, ca. 2011 –   and manufactured by McCauley Wanner and Ryan Palibroda for ALLELES Design Studio, which adorn and add a human silhouette to prostheses in a large variety of colors and patterns and the ability to shop in the same way they choose clothes.
 Emma Watch, 2016 –  developed by Microsoft researchers Haiyan Zhang and Nicolas Villar, is a wearable device that uses haptic vibration technology to allow users with tremors to regain the use of their hand.
Classical music for deaf. The Jungen Symphoniker Hamburg believe music should be for everyone. Therefore, they enable deaf people to experience classical concerts for the first time. By the use of the most modern technology: The Sound Shirt turns music into touch sensations. The wearable device succeeded at its first trial run: The reactions of the deaf persons speak for themselves. Goosebumps guaranteed. Cutecircuit. Youtube May 3, 2016
The SoundShirt 2015-1 6 –  designed by Francesca Rosella and Ryan Genz for CuteCircuit, translates the experience of listening to music for the deaf and hard of hearing. By embedding 16 sensors corresponding to each part of the orchestra—strings, woodwinds, percussion, etc.—into the fabric of a specially designed shirt, music is felt as an immersive experience of tactile sensations.
 LOLA (Laugh Out Loud Aid) 2015  –  developed by Tech Kids Unlimited is an app that engages youth on the autism spectrum to learn digital tools and collaborate through technology.
 From a partnership between Cooper Hewitt and Pratt Institute  –  a selection of six products that students designed in 2016 in collaboration with CaringKind, a nonprofit dedicated to Alzheimer’s caregiving, to meet the needs of the community with empathy and care.
COOPER HEWITT LAB | Design Access February 2–17, 2018
More information and a full roster of events will be updated on
Exhibition: Access+Ability Through September 3
From low-tech products that assist with daily routines to the newest technologies, explore how users and designers are expanding and adapting accessible products and solutions in ways previously unimaginable. Learn more.
Empowered by Design Through January 31
In partnership with Morgan Stanley, a Times Square tribute to the power of design. Share your life-changing designs using the #DesignAccess hashtag.
Hands-on workshop with Creative Growth Art Center Monday, February 5 – 11:00 am to 1:00 pm
Creative Growth Art Center is a San-Francisco based nonprofit serving artists with developmental, mental, and physical disabilities. Visitors of all abilities are welcome to collaborate with a Creative Growth teacher to create a hooked rug designed by an artist with a disability. FREE. Preregistration is required.
Access Design Teen Program Monday, February 5 – 4:30 to 6:30 pm
A special session of Cooper Hewitt’s DesignPrep program open to all teens, this hands-on workshop led by professional designers will explore accessibility and inclusion in design and engage teens in the approaches designers use to address complex challenges. FREE. Preregistration required.
Mark Morris Dance for Parkinson’s Program Tuesday, February 6 – 2:00 to 1:00 pm
The acclaimed Dance for PD program of the Brooklyn-based Mark Morris Dance Group will present a free one-hour dance class for people with Parkinson’s disease in the Barbara and Morton Mandel Design Gallery. In Dance for PD, participants are empowered to explore movement and music in ways that are refreshing, enjoyable, stimulating, and creative. FREE. Preregistration is recommended.
Reelabilities Film Screening: Getting Up Tuesday, February 6 – 6:30 to 8:30 pm
A free film screening of Getting Up, which tells the story of graffiti artist TemptOne who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS, followed by a conversation on future technologies and how they will help us to reimagine user-centered accessible design. FREE. Preregistration required.
Designing Accessible Cities Symposium Thursday, February 8 – 11:00 am to 4:00 pm
Building a more inclusive city is a design opportunity. Join us for a day of critical discussions in partnership with the NYC Mayor’s Office for Disabilities. Explore the barriers that make cities inaccessible and the innovations that promote intentional user-focused design. FREE. Learn more.
Workshops on Access and Inclusion for College Students Friday, February 9 – 9:00 am to 12:00 pm
A morning of workshops with leading accessible designers, including Margaret Price, principal design strategist for Microsoft. Learn more.
Showcase of Student Projects on Accessibility and Inclusion Friday, February 9 – 1:00 to 5:00 pm
Students with works on view in the museum will present their ideas, and a panel of experts discuss how design can expand accessibility and inclusion for all users. Learn more.
Access+Ability and Cooper Hewitt Lab: Design Access are made possible by major support from The Ford Foundation
Funding is also provided by Esme Usdan Exhibition Endowment Fund, Cooper Hewitt Master’s Program Fund, and August de los Reyes.
Access+Ability and Cooper Hewitt Lab: Design Access are presented in partnership with New York City’s Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities.
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian National Design Museum
2 East 91st Street
New York, NY 10128

Source Cooper Hewitt

Also see
Smithsonian Exhibit Puts Focus On Accessible Design Disability Scoop
Michael Graves Design Featured at Cooper Hewitt’s “Access+Ability Exhibition Michael Graves Architecture & Design
Designing for Access The New York Times
At Cooper Hewitt, Socially Responsible Design Takes Center Stage Metropolis
Glimpses of a Design-Led Inclusive Future: “Access+Ability” @ Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New York Irenebrination: Notes on Art, Fashion and Style
Cooper Hewitt Spotlights Design for Access Architect AIA
The dean of the USC art school with only one MFA student responds to her critics Los Angeles Times

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