A blog about universal and accessible design

Monday, May 9, 2011

Smithsonian Podcast on Universal Design

I'm excited to say that the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center interviewed me recently about my work on universal design. The podcast followed up on a special symposium on "Food for Tomorrow" in which I presented some of my research about how new awareness of the needs of people with disabilities has changed design of kitchens and kitchen tools, including such examples as the Cuisinart food processor and (of course) OXO GoodGrips.

There is a great blog post by National Museum of American History curator Katherine Ott to accompany the podcast. Here is an excerpt explaining the origins of the term "universal design":

Universal design rejects traditional "separate but equal" facilities for people with disabilities. The original principles of universal design grew out of a 1974-77 Department of Education grant to architect Ron Mace that involved extensive product and architectural analysis. That lead to a working group to develop core principles for universally-designed facilities, which would provide for equitable and flexible use; be simple and intuitive; present perceptible and sensory information; tolerate error; entail minimal physical effort; and be of an accessible size and orientation. Mace used a wheelchair as a result of contracting polio when he was a boy. His early engineering and design talent resulted in numerous gadgets and adaptations and eventually a career in dismantling architectural barriers.

Listen to the podcast here. Thanks to the Lemelson Center for interviewing me and asking such great (easy ) questions.

In addition to discussing mass-market products like the Cuisinart and OXO, I also mention how people with disabilities themselves altered kitchens and other parts of their houses to make pre-existing spaces work for them. Here are some images from The Toomey J Gazette, the magazine "by and for respiratory polios" that ran from 1958-1969 (and then became the Rehabilitation Gazette). The images show (1) a kitchen sink with the cabinet below cut out to make space for a wheelchair, and a decorative curtain added to maintain a tidy look; and (2) a variety of storage approaches for pots and pans and pantry items, such as lazy susans, pegboards, and wall-mounted racks - all of which were common sights in 1950s/60s households, but here were selected for their particular advantages to people with disabilities. Images are from "Homemaking," The Toomey J Gazette, 1968.

No comments: