adorn, equip essays

Photo of Flintstones Walking Stick by Felicity ShillingfordThe three essays commissioned for the adorn, equip catalogue explore current attitudes to design for disabled people.

In her foreword, Annie Delin writes about the history of the design of equipment for disabled people. She compares the beautiful, tailor-made equipment seen in historical museum collections, designed for rich clients, with the grey, ugly standardised equipment now available. Annie suggests that the exhibits in adorn, equip place the individual person at the centre of the design process when designing equipment.

Ju Gosling's essay is a personal view of society's attitudes towards disabled people. She stresses the importance of having equipment that disabled people can be proud to wear or use. She asks why other everyday, often unnecessary, equipment such as calculators, pagers and mobile phones are designed to be both fashionable and individual, whilst little consideration is given to the design of equipment for disabled people. She writes: ‘those with the least uniform bodies are treated as having the most uniform needs’. She concludes that the problem lies with society and its attitudes towards disabled people.

Julia Cassim is also concerned with the prejudice behind society's representation of disabled people. She argues ‘like it or not, body image rules OK! Yet the message seems lost on the designers and manufacturers of the aids and equipment used by an estimated four million of the 8.4 million disabled people in the UK!’ She explains how the Helen Hamlyn Research Centre is attempting to change these attitudes. The winner of the Research Centre's 'design for our future selves' competition in the 'care' category for this year is Guy Robinson, with his crutches entitled 'Life Support'. ‘Life Support' is specifically designed for disabled sports men and women who share the same design and fashion tastes in sports wear and equipment as non-disabled people.

Sylvia Wright, Gallery Manager
Mark Prest, Acting Gallery Manager and Exhibitions Officer (Craft)
The City Gallery, Leicester

You can also read Ju Gosling's essay on The Wheelchair: Fit, Form and Desire, which she wrote while working with students at Hereward College to produce an exhibition which was shown alongside adorn, equip at Rugby Art Gallery and Museum.

Illustration: Flintstones Walking Stick by Felicity Shillingford. Photograph by Joel Chester Fildes

© The City Gallery, Leicester and the artists: 2001

This site was built by Ju Gosling aka ju90 during an artist's residency at Oriel 31 in November 2001

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