Designing Women–and Men

Accessible icon (figure used to be upright and static)

There has been a giant uptick of design with, by and for people with a wide range of physical, cognitive, and sensory abilities with ordinary aging part of the mix. To that end, the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, always a gem, has mounted a show, Access + Ability, (a title I can’t seem to get into my mental Rolodex,  talking about getting older),  showcasing a variety of items that help with daily routines. The premise is that products for those with disabilities used to be designed by engineers; now they are in the hands of engineers. Bye bye clunky, hello style.

When the show opened in January, The New York Times’ Michael Kimmelman wrote a great review –link here:

At the museum, I was given a stylus linking to item labels that sent more information to my home laptop where I accessed it using a code on my admission ticket. Brilliant idea even if a few of the links weren’t quite ready for prime time.

The technology is great but the objects themselves are even better. Take canes—utilitarian but often not pleasing to look at.

Those on view at C-H are stylish and multifaceted:  some can be picked up when dropped with a tap of the toe, others have glow in the dark handles or hook onto a table and stay put and many are customizable. Farewell plain Jane canes.

There is a pair of cool sneakers designed at the request of a teen-aged boy with cerebral palsy who wrote to Nike explaining he had trouble tying his shoelaces. The result: the FlyEase with a zipper around the sides and Velcro closures. Not only are they easy to get on and off, they’re good-looking.

Check out the hearing aids, the bane of many aging adults who are uncomfortable revealing their disability. As Kimmelman points out, eyeglasses used to be considered “medical equipment” until fashion designers got into the game. Now they are “fashion accessories.” You might not want to go as far as the bejeweled hearing aids in the show but they are a terrific idea.

Bejeweled hearing aid

And lots more:  an athletic-looking walker that could make someone want to get out and jog, memory aids for Alzheimer’s patients and a shirt with magnetic “buttons” that makes dressing a, well, snap. I loved the Velcro-covered wall that lets a user stick a TV remote, eyeglasses or other objects to it.

Every item on view is  well-designed, pleasing- to- use and simplifies a mundane task. The exhibition is on view until September 3, 2018.  It’s highly informative and fun.

After the exhibit, (which you can view on line),  summon your inner designer and make pizza. Start by buying either a ready-made crust OR pizza dough from a shop. This is a prototype for a spinach and mushroom pie but design away using any vegetables you want.– just cook them first, doing it a simple way like roasting .  For the spinach/mushroom pie read on:

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 cup fresh spinach, rinsed and dried

8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese (yes, in a bag) 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms (your choice: button, porcini, exotic like hen-of-the-woods, a combo, etc.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Place pizza crust on baking sheet.

In a small bowl, mix together olive oil and sesame oil. Brush onto pre-baked pizza crust, covering entire surface. Stack the spinach leaves, then cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch strips; scatter evenly over crust. Cover pizza with shredded mozzarella, and top with sliced mushrooms.

Bake in preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and edges are crisp.

And voila, lunch, dinner, snack or what you will, designed by you. Toast yourself for being so clever.






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2 Responses to Designing Women–and Men

  1. Elayne Glotzer says:

    Sounds like a fun show. Wish I could have seen it. As far as the pizza recipe goes,
    its making me hungry. I’m off to find mushrooms. No, I’m not going to the woods.
    Today is the Santa Monica farmers market! Happy Valentines Day!

  2. Jessica Clerk says:

    Great review, Mari.

    Good design can be so powerful in so many fields; it’s terrific that it is being unleashed on the tech we may all need at some time or another. The influence that disabled athletes have had on developing new and stylish products is huge. Thanks for writing about this.