Nugent Residence Hall at U of I Urbana-Champaign is designed for students with disabilities.

Their web site. (Note that this and all websites of the Disability Resources and Educational Services for the University are screen-reader compliant for those using alternative access.)

This is exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about. This is really beyond just “accommodation” and taking it to the next level of full inclusion into society.


No commentary. These articles speak for themselves.


April 21, 2010

taxiAnd you thought it was hard to hail a cab if you’re African-American! (I know, bad, overgeneralized stereotype–perhaps not an inaccurate one— but there’s a point here, I promise).

It’s worse if you’re in a wheelchair since, even if one were to stop, 98% of them aren’t designed to accommodate wheelchairs anyway.

The New York Times reports on a report about wheelchair-accessible hired transportation. This includes cabs and also for-hire rides that you call to pick you up.

It turns out that most of the for-hire rides are subcontracted out. And while the for-hire companies are prohibited from charging riders more for using a wheelchair, the subcontractors are not prohibited from charging the livery company more.

The end result being that it is really, really hard to get a ride in New York if you have a disability. And the agency responsible for enforcing the pertinent rules/laws/policies hasn’t been doing so.

That’s not to say it’s all bad news. You can call 311 from anywhere in New York City and get an accessible taxi to come pick you up. The 311 service is exactly the sort of accommodation that I’m talking about when I get all soapboxy on society being accommodating toward people with disabilities. It’s something that is functional and practical for people without disabilities, too.

Design note after the jump.

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Aimee Mullins at TEDMED

March 12, 2010

I just can’t get enough Aimee Mullins, it seems.

Here she is at TEDMED along with an interview with CNN.

Aimee Mullins

Who needs legs when you look like this?

And some other entries I’ve blogged about her:

See What I’m Saying

March 11, 2010

I know my design blog hasn’t really been much about design, but that stuff takes longer to blog about and I’m working on a PhD here. Instead, here’s a documentary coming out soon

This is not a political blog. This is a blog about how the design of things intersects with our social structures to enhance or obstruct the participation of people with disabilities in society.

I suppose the fact that I think that social structures are things that can themselves be designed and engineered is a political bias that cannot be separated from my blogging, but this place isn’t meant to be about politics ostensibly.

With that, let me talk about the late Senator Edward Kennedy.

Here is a partial list of legislation that Sen Kennedy fought for (from the blog of Robert Rummel-Hudson):

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The Message

December 4, 2008

What is the message here?

Handicap entrance in rear.

Handicap entrance in rear.

Walking assist

November 7, 2008

I’m way behind on my posting.

Remember all those walking robots that the Japanese have been so obsessed with all these years? Journalists took pictures and many people just rolled their eyes condescendingly. “Oh, you can make it dance? Cool, I guess.”

Once you’ve gotten the biomechanics of walking figured out, you can build something like this:

Honda walking apperatus

Honda walking apparatus


Honda walking apparatus

While Honda built these to reduce employee injuries at their car factories, this tech may be usable in the future by people with  muscle weakness such as those with spinal injuries or MS.

Link to Honda’s publicity blurb on the device.

Here is an older prototype that was demonstrated earlier this year at the International Trade Fair on Barrier Free Equipments & Rehabilitation for the Elderly & the Disabled.

Random musing. How do cultural factors affect acceptance of assistive technologies and people with disabilities in general?

The Japanese as a society love gadgets more Americans (you should see the phones they’ve got there compared to here), but Americans are generally more accepting of people with disability on an everyday basis than the Japanese.

(edited to add) Wait, there’s more!

Voting 2

November 7, 2008

The majority of Americans with disabilities are not registered to vote. I was trying to find some statistics to post here, but there is not a lot of research on the topic, either.

Early VotingWhen I was in New Hampshire, the entrance to the polling place I voted at had stairs and no ramp into the building. The exit, however, had a concrete ramp. So in order for a person who could not climb stairs to vote (and I did witness this with one senior citizen who used a walker) that person would have to go in the out door, which left him or her on the wrong side of all the registration tables. The traffic flow was only suitable for one-way traffic.

A better-designed layout would have had a traffic flow that had people going in the ramp door and out down the stairs. This still means that a person not using the stairs would have to go against the flow of traffic to leave.

The reason this is preferable is to accommodate people who might have cognitive or communication impairments in addition to a physical disability. The flow of the room should make it easy to determine what to do without having to ask. If nothing else, one could imitate the person ahead of you in line, something I do as a nondisabled person put in a new or unfamiliar situation all the time.

In the place I voted in PA, there was only one door so everyone had to go against the flow of traffic to leave. It wouldn’t have been any more awkward for someone in a wheelchair, scooter or with a walker than for anyone else. (If I were running that polling place, I would have still turned the check-in tables ninety degrees do direct flow better, but it was functional the way it was).
Some technology after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

What is this blog anyway?

October 23, 2008

I keep attaching the word “design” to things, but so far, there hasn’t been a whole lot of blogging here focused on it. What is this blog about, anyway? Here, have a seat and I’ll explain where I’m coming from. (This entry is an example of metacommunication.)

Pull up a Danish postmodern chair

Pull up a Danish postmodern chair

First of all, I am exhilerated by the amount of technology that is avalable today that can allow people to participate in society who might never have been able to do so in years past. Stephen Hawking was Time Magazine’s Man of the Millennium with good reason. Nothing about the man or his work would have been familiar to someone centuries ago.

This isn’t to suggest that all our problems are solved. While we have the technology, application and design for its use still sucks.

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