Access+Ability

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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...
Photo of Walei Subray. He is seated, and holds a microphone in one hand and a cane in the other. He has a thoughtful expression.
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...
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...
Image of Sina Bahram,Director of Prime Access Consulting (PAC), at a podium, giving a lecture to a group of 50 people sitting around tables.
Lab | Verbal Descriptions with Columbia University Digital Storytelling Lab
What language best communicates the qualities of an object? How do we form meaning from what we see, hear, and touch? Museums and institutions around the world use verbal descriptions—nonvisual language to describe the visual world—to make their collections and resources accessible to people with blindness or low vision. Short talks by accessibility experts, artists,...
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...
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...
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...