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THE COOPER HEWITT, Smithsonian Design Museum has a thoughtful exhibit focusing on accessibility and inclusive designs developed for and by people with physical, sensory, or cognitive disabilities. The Cooper Hewitt, in Manhattan, is the first of the Smithsonian museums to be located outside Washington, D.C.
The exhibit is divided into three sections: Moving, Connecting, and Living. Several of its designs are straightforward, yet effective: magnetic closure replacing buttons on clothing, shoes with wraparound zippers, prosthetic leg covers in a variety of colors and patterns that offer individuality. Other innovations are more complex.
SoundShirt. Clothing with embedded sensors and actuators offer the experience of music to the hard of hearing or deaf. Francesca Rosella and Ryan Genz designed the SoundShirt and SoundSkirt for CuteCircuit.
Sixteen sensors correspond to orchestral strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion, etc. The clothing’s fabric translates the sounds into tactile sensations for the wearer.
Racing Wheelchair. Paralympic athletes Tatyana McFadden and Chelsea McClammer worked with BMW Designworks in designing this racing wheelchair.
Its design efficacy helped McFadden and McClammer earn four medals at the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Voting Booth. Los Angeles County, IDEO, Digital Foundry, and Cambridge Consultants collaborated in the design of an inclusive voting booth accessible to all types of voters.
The voting booth is compatible with those in wheelchairs, or with limited vision or hearing, or for whom English is a second language, or anyone challenged by new technology. (And doesn’t that include many of us?)
PillPack. Designed by Gen Suzuki and those at IDEO, the PillPack manufactured by Power On simplifies life for those of us taking multiple medications.
Medications are presorted and identified by color, with pouches labeled for day and time of each dosage. (This sure beats my complex geometric array of once-daily, twice-daily, and once-weekly meds.)
Emma Watch. This prototype wristband, developed in 2016 by Microsoft researchers Haiyan Zhang and Nicolas Villar, uses haptic vibration technology to give those with Parkinson’s Disease a steadier hand.
Haptic technology was discussed here at SimanaitisSays. The word comes from the Greek, ἅπτικός, pertaining to the sense of touch. The Emma Watch senses human tremors and offers feedback in response to minimize their effect.
Microsoft News Centre UK describes the invention of the Emma Watch. In fact, there is a real Emma, Emma Lawton, who suffers from Parkinson’s Disease and whose acquaintance with Haiyan Zhang encouraged development of the device.
The Emma Watch is only one of the more than 70 innovations, either prototypes or already in production, that are part of the Cooper Hewitt Museum’s Access + Ability exhibition.
Though a continent apart, I’m glad to have visited it virtually. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2018