A blog about universal and accessible design

Friday, July 18, 2008

personal histories of design

the design historian in me loooooves this history of chairs that has nothing to do with big names or evolution of styles:

A few quick things I take away:
- chairs are necessarily both visual and haptic things. No matter how high-design, hoity-toity a chair is, we seem almost always to ask under our breath, "is it comfortable?"
- the answer to that question is often as much about personal history as bodily experience
- it's surprising to me that he doesn't include wheelchairs

It got me thinking about personal histories of design.. artworks or writings that highlight how important particular tools are to how we express ourselves and live everyday. Here are some..

A fictional video-story of a fashionable woman and her walker, via Missability

Wheelchair Dancer discusses the importance of complete alignment in her wheelchair, making clear that the chair is not at all marginal to the dance.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Image from NY Times: a 5-year-old boy in a baseball cap sits in a wheelchair to the left of the frame. His mother holds his hand as he reaches for a bright green digger at a playground sandbox.

When I was in San Francisco recently, I was amazed at the huge and fun playground in Golden Gate Park-- there were so many different options there that would have been fun for a lot of different sizes/shapes-- in fact I had a hard time restraining myself (and didn't much) from playing on the spinning flower-shaped chairs or climbing the big rope spiderweb myself. I was thinking that the spacious rolling rubberized landscape was uncluttered enough that kids and parents with wheelchairs could get around, and there were options at different levels that would be fun for people with various impairments.

This NY Times article
reports on how hard it is to fund accessible playgrounds, but that a few organizations have pulled it off in the Northeast (this is a regional article). The emphasis is on play spaces that can be used by everyone, and several parents quoted in the article mention the problem of going to playgrounds that are accessible only to some of their kids.
- Boundless Playgrounds has helped CT and NJ communities build playground with things like raised sandboxes so kids in wheelchairs can play and toys like the extended-arm shovel in the image.
- Miracle Fields is an organization that builds accessible baseball fields-- 4 in the NY region and more than 10 planned, says the article.