Design Meets Disability

Reading Response to excerpt from Design Meets Disability by Graham Pullin

I really enjoyed this weeks reading assignment about the design of tools used by those with physical disabilities. Pullin describes how most assistive devices are designed to draw as little attention to the device as possible. Prostheses illustrate this example clearly; they are usually flesh-colored with a texture intended to imitate skin. What I found interesting was his commentary of how glasses have bucked this trend. He explains how glasses used to be treaded as medical apparatuses, but have more recently become something we wear as opposed to use. He contrasts this to how we think of hearing aids. What I found lacking in the text was the reason why glasses have become a fashion statement and accepted – even envied – by non-glasses wearers.

I think I have an idea. I don’t claim to have studied this or to have anything other than anecdotal evidence, but I think the reason glasses have passed into fashion accessory territory has to do with what we associate with glasses themselves. Glasses seem come with a stigma representing nerdiness, or sometimes elitism. Growing up, the geeks and nerds portrayed in movies and on tv always wore glasses. But now, nerds are cool! And anytime something becomes cool, people want to emulate it. Even the classic styles that were popular before glasses were cool are coming back into vogue. As a glasses wearer, It’s very interesting to observe.

So where do we go from here? I think an amazing trend in society is our increasing acceptance of disabilities. I loved the example of Aimee Mullins and her different legs for different occasions. For someone with a physical disability, there are options now to show their unique style instead of just trying to be “normal”. With the cost of rapid prototype machines and supplies (like 3d printers and cnc machines) decreasing rapidly, I could see small shops setting up to make custom-designed pieces for traditionally boring “invisible” medical devices, turning them into pieces that fit the style -and functional lifestyle – of their wearer.