About the exhibition

“Fills one with real optimism…”—New York Times

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. Access+Ability features over 70 innovative designs developed in the last decade. From low-tech products that assist with daily routines to the newest technologies, the exhibition explores how users and designers are expanding and adapting accessible products and solutions in ways previously unimaginable.

Highlights

A selection of objects featured in the exhibition.

tell us your stories

Help us raise awareness of accessible design with your personal stories of life-enhancing accessible products, systems, and services. Your input will help us decide which objects to rotate into the exhibition as we continue to expand its offerings. Please share your stories and photos at designaccess@si.edu by April 1, 2018.

Accessibility at Cooper Hewitt

In 2017, Cooper Hewitt committed itself to a campus-wide effort to broaden audiences and ensure the museum is welcoming to all. Toward that end, the museum is using its galleries and resources to raise awareness of accessible design innovation, inspire dialogue, and leverage the museum’s role as a design hub to promote problem-solving in support of inclusivity.

Cooper Hewitt offers a variety of access services and programs so that everyone may enjoy the museum to the fullest extent possible. Visit our Accessibility at Cooper Hewitt page to learn more.

Verbal description tours

Verbal description, docent-led tours of Access+Ability are designed for visitors who are blind or have low vision and are open to all. Discover highlights from the exhibition through rich and dynamic description and sensory experience. Touch tour components of some objects may be included.

Verbal description tours of Access+Ability will be offered every Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3:00 p.m. All public tours are free with museum admissions and no reservations are required.

supporters

A list of supporters of the exhibition and Cooper Hewitt Lab: AARP, Ford Foundation, August de los Reyes, Esme Usdan Exhibition Fund, Master's Program Fund, plus NYC Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities

from the blog

The Architecture of Deafness: On the Subversive and Dignified Architecture of the Deaf School
Written by Jeffrey Mansfield Set in picturesque Casco Bay in southeastern Maine, Mackworth Island is a peculiar knob of land. It is a place I have known since I was a child: to the Deaf community it is known for The Governor Baxter School for the Deaf, to the locals for its hiking trails and...
Design and Agency: When Design fails the Disability Community
Written by Walei Subray Born in Egypt and raised in New York City, I’m a classic New Yorker. The only difference about me is that I drag a 58-inch black cane across the streets and sidewalks. That’s because I was born with a progressive eye condition called retinitis pigmentosa. As a child, I could see...
Drawing by Touch
Written by Steven Landau As a company of designers and producers of tactile maps and models, Touch Graphics, Inc. usually focuses on products that communicate spatial information through the sense of touch for use by visually impaired students and museum visitors. Occasionally, the company develops tools to support blind artists and scientists.  One of our...
Designers are Optimists: A Snapshot of Contemporary Design
Persistent advancements in materials and technologies, based increasingly on science as well as on the imagination of individuals, has produced a large body of work defined as contemporary design. Much of it has to do with the way things are made, often using new processes. We have mastered assembly-line mass production as exemplified by such...
In the upper left the words: "Design for Access: Cooper Hewitt Co-Lab." Along the bottom pictures the New York University torch logo with the words "NYU | Ability Project." In the upper right, a 3D-modeled rendering of the Carnegie Mansion in pink, blue, and turquoise. All text and images set against a gray background.
The Ability Project: Empowering People with Disabilities Through Design
Written by Claire Kearney-Volpe In 2016, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities presented the Ability Project with the ADA Sapolin Award for their “fearless and innovative approach to developing tools that will improve the lives of people with disabilities.” The Ability Project builds relationships and designs...
Printing an Elegant & Fashionable Brace
In celebration of the museum’s inaugural Cooper Hewitt Lab: Design Access taking place in the Barbara and Morton Mandel Design Gallery through February 15, we are highlighting innovative accessible design from the permanent collection. Designed to help prevent further curvature of the spine, UNYQ Align is an elegant and fashionable scoliosis brace that combines digital...
An Inspired and Empowering Hearing Device
In celebration of the museum’s inaugural Cooper Hewitt Lab: Design Access taking place in the Barbara and Morton Mandel Design Gallery through February 15, we are highlighting innovative accessible design from the permanent collection. How can you make a hearing aid both elegant and functional at the same time? Stuart Karten Design introduced the Zon...
A High-Performance Prosthetic
In celebration of the museum’s inaugural Cooper Hewitt Lab: Design Access taking place in the Barbara and Morton Mandel Design Gallery through February 16, we are highlighting innovative accessible design from the permanent collection. The Flex-Foot Cheetah incorporates untraditional materials to solve a design problem that had vexed the medical field for years: finding a...
Highway Reads
In celebration of the museum’s inaugural Cooper Hewitt Lab: Design Access taking place in the Barbara and Morton Mandel Design Gallery through February 15, we are highlighting innovative accessible design from the permanent collection. The Clearview typeface is a beautiful example of the way design helps to improve people’s daily lives. A product of the...