Inclusive Design on Display at the Cooper Hewitt

For more than 30 years, Enabling Devices has been creating exceptional products that help people with disabilities engage more actively and more joyfully in the world. At long last, other businesses and cultural institutions are catching on.

For example, a new exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum  in New York City features 70 works that make everyday activities more accessible to people with disabilities. “Access + Ability” on display from Dec. 15, 2017 – Sept. 3, 2018 is part of a major effort on the part of the museum to make the institution and its exhibitions more inclusive and accessible to visitors of all abilities.

According to director of the Cooper Hewitt, Caroline Baumann, “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.”

The hands-on, interactive exhibition is divided into three sections — moving, connecting and living — and contains everything from adaptive clothing, utensils, eye-controlled speech-generating devices, apps for children with autism, “smart canes,” shoes for people with fine motor challenges, wearable navigation systems, bejeweled hearing aids and much more.

Highlights of the exhibition include a racing wheelchair designed in 2016, a prototype for an inclusive voting booth that will be put into use in 2020, fashionable prosthetic leg covers, a watch “that uses haptic vibration technology to allow users with tremors to regain the use of their hand,” and a shirt, “embedded with 16 sensors corresponding to each part of the orchestra—strings, woodwinds, percussion, etc.” that allows deaf people to “feel” music through tactile sensations.

In order to select the most useful, and most innovative objects for inclusion in the exhibition, co-curators Cara McCarty and Rochelle Steiner consulted with people with disabilities, their caregivers, therapists, scientists and designers.

Exhibition designers took care to make the exhibition itself accessible to visitors with disabilities by installing Blindways, an app designed and developed by Perkins School for the Blind, eye-tracking speech-generating devices and accessibility apps by Apple that use Switch Control VoiceOver and voice-command software.

“Access+Ability” was developed in partnership with the New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. In conjunction with the exhibition, the museum will offer a series of programs that encourage dialogue about inclusive design.

For a complete list of all items in the exhibition, click here.