Aimi Hamraie, “Critical Access Studies”

A marked-up photograph of a building lobby for the Taylor Business school, showing architect Ronald Mace (a white man wheelchair user) and two people standing—a man and a woman in front of elevators. The image has been marked with blue pen to indicate specifications for a glass partition, door, and callbox (“lighted and audible”).

Suggested retrofits for the Taylor School of Business drawn directly on photos of door thresholds, sidewalks, and a lobby (where Mace himself appears in the photo, ca. 1978). Ronald L. Mace Papers, MC 00260, Special Collections Research Center, North Carolina State University Libraries, Raleigh, N.C.

The GSD is pleased to present a series of talks and webinars broadcast to our audiences via Zoom.

*This lecture will be ONLINE ONLY. For security reasons, virtual attendees must register. Scroll down to find complete instructions for how to register.

Event Description

Thirty years after the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act, much of the built environment remains inaccessible to disabled people. Accordingly, the vast majority of research and writing on accessibility seeks to convince the unconvinced of the value of inclusion. This field, which I term “Access Studies,” would benefit from greater engagement with the concepts, practices, and political commitments of critical disability studies. In this talk, I will discuss the emerging field of “Critical Access Studies,” which engages with the methodologies, epistemologies, and political commitments of accessibility from the perspectives of Disability Justice and disability culture. Using historical and contemporary examples, I will illustrate the difference that critical perspectives on disability—including intersectional perspectives—can make for architects seeking to understand design with, by, and for disabled people.

Screenshot of Aimi Hamraie presenting on Zoom. Hamraie is visible on the right side of the image. The presentation shows images of disabled soldiers and housewives of the 1950s and 60s.

Screenshot of Aimi Hamraie presenting on Zoom. Hamraie is visible on the right side of the image. The presentation shows an image of a book called "Design for Independent Living" and a photograph from a protest.

Screenshot of Aimi Hamraie presenting on Zoom. Hamraie is visible on the right side of the image. The presentation shows three examples of depictions of disabled users from the 1970s and 80s.


Aimi Hamraie, an olive-skinned west Asian non-binary person with short, dark curly hair and rectangular glasses smiles slightly at the camera. They wear a blue shirt, blue and green plaid blazer, and stand in front of a blurred green background.Aimi Hamraie is Associate Professor of Medicine, Health, & Society and American Studies at Vanderbilt University, where they direct the Critical Design Lab. Hamraie is author of Building Access: Universal Design and the Politics of Disability (University of Minnesota Press, 2017) and host of the Contra* podcast on disability, design justice, and the lifeworld. Their interdisciplinary research spans critical disability studies, science and technology studies, critical design and urbanism, critical race theory, and the environmental humanities.

Follow Aimi Hamraie on Twitter.

How to Join

Register to attend the lecture here. Once you have registered, you will be provided with a link to join the lecture via Zoom. This link will also be emailed to you.

The event will also be live streamed to the GSD’s YouTube page. Only viewers who are attending the lecture via Zoom will be able to submit questions for the Q+A. If you would like to submit questions for the speaker in advance of the event, please click here.

Live captioning will be provided during this event. A transcript will be available roughly two weeks after the event, upon request.

Anyone requiring accessibility accommodations should contact the Public Programs Office at (617) 496-2414 or [email protected].