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

Image of Paul Orselli, President and Chief Instigator, POW! and blogger ExhibiTricks, standing to introduce himself during a panel discussion at Cooper Hewitt. Audience members and panelists look on. Paul wears a red t-shirt with the words "Museums are not neutral" printed on it.
Lab | Universal Design Panel with Museum Access Consortium
The seven principles of Universal Design (1997) provide a philosophy and framework for creating inclusive and accessible places and experiences. The workshop brings together educators, curators, and spatial and interactive designers to examine how exhibition developers have used Universal Design in their work for museums and sites of life-long learning. Panelists include: Steven Landau, Research...
Getting a Grip on User-Inspired Design
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. Peeling potatoes is tedious enough without having to do battle with ill-designed kitchen gadgets. Why hadn’t these objects evolved to accommodate...
Image of panel discussion from Access + Ability symposium, a female student presents her design ideas.
Lab | Showcase of Student Projects on Accessibility and Inclusion
University-level students were invited to submit design ideas for a premier showcase of student projects on solutions for improving accessibility or inclusion. All accepted entries will be on view in the Barbara and Morton Mandel Design Gallery from February 5, 2018 through February 25, 2018. Students present their ideas, and a panel of experts discuss...
Image of a panel of experts, 8 people, sitting in a half circle. One man in the middle, sitting in an electric wheelchair, speaks into a microphone while the rest look on.
LAB | DESIGNING ACCESSIBLE CITIES SYMPOSIUM: Morning Session
Building a more inclusive city is a design opportunity. Join us for a day of ignite talks and critical discussions presented in partnership with the NYC Mayor’s Office for Disabilities to explore the barriers that make cities inaccessible and the innovations that promote intentional user-focused design. Cooper Hewitt Lab: Design Access is a free programming series...
Image of three women sitting in purple chairs during a panel discussion. The woman in the middle Kat Holmes, speaks into a microphone
LAB | DESIGNING ACCESSIBLE CITIES SYMPOSIUM: Afternoon Session
Building a more inclusive city is a design opportunity. Join us for a day of ignite talks and critical discussions presented in partnership with the NYC Mayor’s Office for Disabilities to explore the barriers that make cities inaccessible and the innovations that promote intentional user-focused design. Moderated by Victor Calise, Commissioner, Mayor’s Office for People...
Drawing by Joseph Friedman of a design for a bendable straw for his patent application ca. 1930s.
Everyday Love Stories
A pioneer of inclusive design, August de los Reyes looks at the innovations inspired by loved ones.
An image of a man in a wheelchair taking part in a strengthening exercise with ropes at The Axis Project.
The Axis Project: Designing for Wellness
How two advocates founded a gym and wellness center for people with physical disabilities.
Watch Gianfranco Zaccai (Continuum), Jon Marshall (MAP Project office), Scott Summit (3D Systems), and moderator Aimi Hamraie (Vanderbilt University) have a conversation about the origins and future of universal design and accessibility.
Universal Design: Myth or Reality?
From Cooper Hewitt's archives, a video of Gianfranco Zaccai (Continuum), Jon Marshall (MAP Project office), Scott Summit (3D Systems), and moderator Aimi Hamraie (Vanderbilt University) discussing the origins and future of universal design and accessibility.