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New museum was once wheelchair-optimized home by famous architect

Life dramatically improved for one segment of the U.S. population in 1990 when the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law. It is almost hard to believe that the ADA has only been around for about 24 years, because the protections and provisions it sets forth are crucial to the success and happiness of disabled Americans and their families.

Prior to the ADA, disability accommodations often had to be worked out privately. Interestingly, one of America’s most famous architects designed at least one home around the needs of a wheelchair-bound client in the 1940s and early 1950s. In addition to being functional, the house is (and was designed to be) aesthetically appreciated while sitting down.

The architect was Frank Lloyd Wright, who would be turning 147 years old this year if he were still alive. The clients were a World War II veteran and his wife. War had left the man with a spinal cord injury resulting in paraplegia.

The one-story home in Rockford, Illinois includes a beautiful brick patio. It also contains furnishings meant to accommodate life in a wheelchair, including built-in desks. The home was completed in 1952, and the clients lived in it from then until 2012.

The house is now on the National Register of Historic Places and will be turned into a museum later this year. Because it has only been occupied by the clients who commissioned it, many of their personal belongings will be preserved in the museum along with the original furnishings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

It is amazing and inspiring to think that many decades before the ADA was enacted, an architect like Frank Lloyd Wright was using his creative genius to make a living space that was both wheelchair-optimized and beautiful. Moreover, the beauty was designed to be appreciated from a seated vantage point.

Hopefully, this house will inspire other creative minds to design disability accommodations that are beautiful as well as functional.

Source: Disability Scoop, "Accessible Frank Lloyd Wright House To Make Public Debut," Michelle Diament, April 14, 2014

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