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Grant number: FZ-256534-17

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Sara A. Hendren
Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering (Needham, MA 02492-1200)

A Scissor, A Shoe, The Sidewalk’s Slant: Disability and the Unlikely Origins of Everyday Things

Research and writing leading to publication of a book on the concept of disability, based on the stories behind everyday objects designed to accommodate disabled people.

This book, under contract with Riverhead in 2019, is about the unexpected places where disability is at the heart of design, borne out in everyday objects and environments. From daily kitchen tools, to the invention of the telephone, to the shape of city sidewalks and architecture, the built world is packed with unknown origin stories that are shaped by the experience of disability, an experience that tends to be understood exclusively as a medical condition and rarely seen as the resource that it is: a generative, fascinating lens to begin thinking and re-thinking about the world around us. The book’s distinctive argument is that the experience of disability has historically been a site of invention and creativity, and that its politics simultaneously carry enormous implications for human rights. Nowhere is this creativity and urgency more convivial, resonant, and provocative than in the designed material world.

Project fields:
Architecture; Cultural History; Interdisciplinary Studies, General

Public Scholar Program

Research Programs

Total amounts:
$37,800 (approved)
$31,500 (awarded)

Grant period:
9/1/2017 – 8/31/2018