The Right to Design: Disability and Access in the United States, 1945-1990


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation traces the development of the idea of “accessibility” as a key component of the disability rights cause in the United States. Focusing on the time period from the end of World War II, when policymakers and medical professionals sought to reintegrate disabled veterans into civilian life, to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, it considers how the design of things ranging from public buses to can openers became implicated in the call for inclusion. As advocates of disability rights asserted that the government, not just individuals with disabilities, bore the responsibility to improve access, they introduced a “right to design” that explicitly linked the design of places and things to the entitlements of the citizen.