The evolution of universal design and accessibility

Book cover showing anthropometric diagrams of a wheelchair userBess Williamson takes a look at two books and reviews them in tandem, which makes for an interesting read in its own right. Both are about the history of disability, accessibility and universal design, but approach the topic from different perspectives. Aimi Hamraie takes a legal and rights view of history, while Elizabeth Guffey tracks the work of individual designers and the development of symbols and images, particularly the access symbol we know today. They show how accessible design was developed in more than one place at the same time, which shows at least two family trees of access and universal design. One from the book cover for Designing Disability shows painted floor markings with the international symbol for access.bottom up (“crip technoscience”) and one from the top down (standards and codes). An excellent and thoughtful review by someone who understands this field of research. The books are: 

Aimi Hamraie Building Access: Universal Design and the Politics of Disability (University of Minnesota Press, 2017) 

Elizabeth Guffey Designing Disability: Symbols, Space, and Society (Bloomsbury Press, 2017). Or from Trove (National Library of Australia).  

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