Accessible America: A History of Disability and Design


Product Details

New York University Press
Publish Date
6.2 X 9.1 X 1.3 inches | 1.35 pounds

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About the Author

Bess Williamson is Associate Professor of Art History, Theory and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.


"This illuminating and thoughtful overview of the evolution of accessible design in the U.S. between the end of WWII and the late 1990s is a strong introduction to the topic...Williamson skillfully connects design concepts to changing social narratives; this work should reward readers interested in either topic."--Publishers Weekly
"Williamson keenly emphasizes that the United States has led the world globally toward physical access and accessibility as acceptable and admirable natural and civil rights rather than annoying physical encumbrances that stand in the way...reading [this]can change lives."--Library Journal
"Williamson reveals the hidden history of how the Disability Rights Movement's struggle for inclusion rebuilt the world. Reaching back to activist veterans returning from World War II, through the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968, to ergonomics, universal design, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, Williamson shows us the transformed America that gives us the tools and pathways we all use every day to make our lives work better, and that the emergence of inclusive design and the world it makes is a tool for justice."--Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, author of Extraordinary Bodies
"Beautifully and engagingly written, Williamson's approach to the history of accessibility as a history of design is brilliant. Accessible America shows how disability advocates harnessed technological design in their quest for access and equality, paying particular attention to the connection between prosthetic devices and the 'universal' design that followed, illuminating both histories. Highly recommended."--Douglas C. Baynton, author of Defectives in the Land: Disability and Immigration in the Age of Eugenics
"Bess Williamson's engaging history of accessible design points the way to design as a tool for empowerment, critique, and self-expression that celebrates the diversity of human bodies. Disability is a culture, not a lack."--Ellen Lupton, Curator of Contemporary Design at The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
"By unearthing, situating, and interpreting artifacts of accessible designfrom World War II to the rise of the Independent Living Movement to the post-ADA eraWilliamson's book offers a much-needed contribution to disability history as we know it while also reshaping it for the next generation of disability historians, designers, and activists."--David Serlin, author of Replaceable You: Engineering the Body in Postwar America
"Accessible America offers an important history of how and why design for disability has evolved and needs to evolve."
"Accessible America is handsomely produced and will appeal to readers interested in design, disability studies, and social history."--CHOICE