"Making Modern Disability: Histories of Disability, Design, and Technology"
October 26, 2016
A Conference at the Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington, Delaware
On October 28, 2016, the Hagley Museum and Library will host a conference to explore the history of modern design and technology with regard to disability. While devices adapted to the needs of people with disabilities can be found throughout human history, industrialization created distinctive circumstances for the material lives of the disabled. On one hand, people with sensory, cognitive, and physical disabilities were often those who struggled most to adapt to modern material life with its rationalized work routines, standardized products, and inaccessible architecture. On the other hand, modern design culture was one of improvement. Designers, architects, and engineers proposed ways to adapt products and sites for users of varying abilities, while people with disabilities and their families found creative ways to improve access for themselves. Legal and policy efforts such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities also spurred change in the 20th century as they defined access to architecture and technology as a civil right.