Accessibility has always been vital for our built environment, but sometimes architects and designers view accessibility needs as supplemental rather than integral in their designs. Decade by decade, inclusively and universally designed products are increasingly celebrated as benefitting individuals with all levels of ability, not merely seen as accommodations.

In 1973 the United States Access Board was formed as an independent federal agency to promote accessibility and to ensure access to federally funded facilities. Since its inception, the Access Board has drafted legislation like the Americans with Disabilities Act and instituted guidelines that require accessible design in buildings, transportation facilities, and electronic and information technology. Members of the Access Board include representatives from federal departments as well as members of the public who are appointed by the President. 

In 2013, President Barack Obama appointed architect and designer Michael Graves to an administrative role on the Access Board. Following his own partial paralysis in 2003, Graves became an internationally recognized advocate of health care and accessible design. Graves passed away in 2015 but his legacy lives on through his work in shaping policies, increasing awareness around accessible design, and through the beloved products and buildings he designed. His work is featured in Cooper Hewitt's permanent collection and he was posthumously awarded the 2015 National Design Award for Lifetime Achievement. We're proud to carry a selection of Michael Graves books and products which you can find here.

Public interest in good design has expanded throughout the years inspiring a new generation of designers and goods for everyday use. One of the most gorgeous examples of inclusive design in recent years is the Dot Watch. The world's first braille watch was developed by the South Korean company DOT and is part of Cooper Hewitt's permanent collection. Its minimalist design features a moving keyboard that displays braille text in real-time, so you don't see time flying by, you feel it. The Dot Watch can be connected to a smartphone application allowing the user to receive information such as GPS navigation, call, and text message notifications, as well as the date and time adjusting to the needs of the user and enhancing their quality of life. The watch is available at SHOP Cooper Hewitt for a limited time.

Posted by Valerie

SHOP BLOG is written by the sales associates of SHOP Cooper Hewitt, bringing their singular design expertise into the digital realm.


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