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How America’s individualistic streak shaped design for disability

It’s perhaps predictable, in a country subscribed to a mythos of rugged individualism, frontier spirit, and all manner of bootstrap-pulling, that the United States’ approach to disability rights is focused on the individual. But as art historian Bess Williamson argues in Accessible America: A History of Disability and Design, her new book examining the evolution of accessible product design, regulations, and public spaces, that focus on the individual is in many ways detrimental to the social safety net.

Installation view of “Access+Ability,” a recent exhibit at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum that featured 70 works of inclusive design. Chris J. Gauthier


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