Main Conent


Space is a key factor in the history of disability. Artifacts capture both the dramatic and less obvious stories. 

cane tips color photograph disability history america

Institutions, group homes, schools, nursing homes, camps, and independent living centers generated camaraderie and new ideas as well as rebellion and change. People have been legally forced into and out of homes, hospitals and institutions. Public health measures included quarantine for contagion.

The architecture and design of space shapes social interactions and sends messages about who is welcome. People who use a mobility device, such as a wheelchair, white cane, or crutch, have an intimacy with the textures of the road surface, the behaviors of other travelers, the location of light and signage, and similar landscape features. This awareness helps in navigation and safety. In the mid-20th century, institutions and local governments began adapting public spaces for accessibility. Activists lobbied for legislation and demanded alteration of urban landscapes and buildings, often using concepts of Universal Design.