Design for Accessibility: Cooper-Hewitt Co-Lab

Spring 2017 – Thursdays 6:30- ­9:00.
2 metrotech rm 803
(With field trips to The Cooper Hewitt)
Course Credits: 3
Duration: 14-weeks

Course Description
Interdisciplinary graduate-level course bringing together students from across NYU to reimagine the collection of the Cooper Hewitt (Smithsonian Design Museum) for museumgoers with disabilities.

Through multiple site visits, the Cooper Hewitt (set in the Andrew Carnegie Mansion on the Upper East Side) will serve as both a client and playground for us to design without barriers.

Students will learn and employ a human-centered approach to the design and development of an accessibility framework for their galleries, website, and API to create a more inclusive museum-going experience.


  • Demonstrate an understanding of and implement iterative & human­ centered design research and prototyping processes (including client consultation, design/prototyping and user testing).
  • Acquire an awareness of experiences for people with a variety disabilities.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of various technologies used by people with disabilities.
  • Demonstrate the ability to communicate and work within a group to develop a prototype.
  • Demonstrate critical and creative thinking in researching solutions to problems
  • Develop a prototype device.
  • Develop extensive documentation for your part of the project.
  • Develop the ability to work under project constraints and client needs

30% ­Individual Grade: Midterm (20%), Retrospectives and in­-class participation (10%)
70% ­Group Grade: Project Development and Delivery

Weekly blog posts in which you reflect on your learnings for the week.

Research Phase (Midterm)
Written 3 ­page research paper and presentation about your contributions to the project, taking into consideration the historical context, technology (specs and innovations) and social impacts of the subject. Use at least 2 sources from the recommended and class readings.

Development Phase
Students will give a 10­ minute presentation during their project development. This will happen part way into the second half of class and serve as a kind of progress report

Final Prototype Project

1) Group presentation(s) to instructors during the final 2 classes

2) Project website
Must be updated weekly during the second half of the class
-Should reflect ongoing work

Group work
Students must present documentation reflecting the prototype development process ­Groups will add their documentation to a page on the class website as soon as the groups are formed. We will create the pages in class.

Arriving more than 5 minutes after class start, whether at the Ability Studio or at site visits, is “late.” Two “lates” equal one absence. Each absence from class will result in a deduction of 2 points from the final course grade.

Class participation
Engage in discussion with each other (in ­person and on Slack), invited speakers and at on­site visits. And of course, except for note taking, all laptops closed. There will be time to use laptops during class, and there will be time to close them because it has been scientifically proven that “laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers”.

Class Outline:

Week 1

Intro to the Course (Design Brief) January 26th

-Syllabus and Intro to course

-Introductions and skill share

-Client Brief review

-Brief overview of Human Centered Approach

-Design for Disability

-Contextual Inquiry

-Schedule site visit




Week 2

Contextual Inquiry (Trip to Cooper Hewitt) February 2nd

Week of January 30th students to visit the museum, learn about the collection, and API.

-February 2nd 4-6pm OR February 3rd anytime in the afternoon


Week 3

Design Process February 9th

-Assign groups

-Detailed overview of the Human Centered Approach

-User Research

-Competitive/Business Analysis

Homework: Do a competitive analysis of NYC-based museum and gallery access programing post to blog.


Week 4

Site Visit With UCP TBD February 16th

-TBD (Week of February 13th) – We would like our students to be joined for a visit to the museum by members of United Cerebral Palsy for an experiential in visiting a museum with a mobility impairment.
**Q&A with someone from the museum at this point as well**

Reading for next Class:

Design Meets Disability, Graham Pulin (2009). Chapter 6 Feeling Meets Testing


Week 5

Design for Disability and Assistive Technology February 23rd

Review of Competitive Analysis Homework!

-Human Centered Design for Access and Ability

-Access and Assistive Tech

-Leona Guest Lecture


Week 6

Interaction Design March 2nd (Claire Away)


Reading for next Class:

Steinfeld, Edward, Maisel, Jordana, and Levine, Danise. Universal Design : Creating Inclusive Environments (pgs 4-25). Hoboken, US: John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated, 2012. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 28 December 2016: (Search book title and select online version)


Week 7

Guest Lecture Georgia Krantz (Access at Museums) March 9th

-Museum Design

-Guest Lecture with Georgia Krantz



Week 7– Guest Lecture Georgia Krantz (Access at Museums)

Week 8Prototyping and Testing (usability research) March 23rd (Dom Away)

-Types of Prototypes


Week 9Midterms (secondary research presentation + critique)  March 30th

Week 10Design Studio I April 6th

Week 11Usability Testing (with community members) April 13th

Week 12 Design Studio II April 20th (DOM AWAY)

Week 13Design Studio III April 27th

Week 14Final Presentations (w guests) May 4th

**Presentations @ Cooper Hewitt May 11th or 12th**

Recommended Reading:
Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability (3rd Edition) (Voices That Matter), Steve Krug

The Design of Everyday Things, Donald Norman

About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design, Alan Cooper

The Elements of User Experience: User-Centered Design for the Web and Beyond, Jesse James Garrett

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information AND Envisioning Information, Edward R. Tufte


For more resources, readings and links visit the rest of this list on Siman Pan’s article, “The Only UX Reading List Ever,” in Medium.


Recommended Resources:


Find the full list and more inspiration from “UX Design Blog and Recourses to Follow Religiously” by Chris Bank