Chicago Disability Activism, Arts, and Design: 1970s to Today

Artists included: Arts of Life, Todd Bauer, Dawoud Bey, Winnifred Birts and Kenneth Williams, Matt Bodett, Bodies of Work, Jack Catlin, Carol Cleigh, Jude Conlon Martin, Mary Ellen Croteau, Sky Cubacub, Veronica “Ronnie” Cuculich, Susan Dupor, Mike Ervin, Terrence Karpowicz, Riva Lehrer, Tim Lowly, LCM Architects, Susan Nussbaum, Tom Olin, Kerry Richardson, Bill Shannon, Hollis Sigler, Andy Slater, Barak adé Soleil, Anna Stonum, Allison Wade and Susan Pasowicz, Chun-Shan (Sandie) Yi

Chicago Disability Activism, Arts, and Design: 1970s to Today explores how Chicago artists and designers with disabilities were integral to the development of a local and national disability rights movement, creating radical change for more than one fifth of the US population, as well as for all of American society, and influencing lasting transformation in the visual art and design fields. At its heart a research project and inviting new contributions, the exhibition focuses on the history of the disability arts movement in the late 20th century, the role artists played in that activism, and the development of a disability aesthetics, as evidenced in work artists are making today. 

Through artworks (paintings, drawings, sculpture, installation and video), graphic design, architectural documents, oral histories, archival documents, and other ephemera, the exhibition will tell the stories of how Chicagoans with disabilities and their allies broke barriers, created change in policy and federal law, and changed culture at a time when the reality of life for many people with disabilities was the restrictions imposed by institutionalization and segregation. People with disabilities in Chicago changed the cultural agenda, challenged the medical model of disability, and told the world that ‘disability’ wasn’t a people with disabilities' problem; it was society’s problem for having disenfranchised people by creating barriers to full participation and engagement. Artists with disabilities have played (and are playing) a central in that activism and have created work that formulates a disability aesthetics, an aesthetics that challenges traditional modes while exploring conflicting categories and definitions.


Chicago Disability Activism, Art, and Design: 1970s to Today presents the current results on ongoing research, collected in collaboration with Chicago disability artists and activists. 

We invite further contributions to flesh out this multifaceted history, as well as its continued legacy. Do you have experience working at the intersection of disability activism, art, or design in Chicago? What is the most important story to tell? Contributions will be added to the exhibition on an ongoing basis. 

Share your story by calling the 24/7 response line 262-586-9257 or filling out this form . Responses can be formatted however you wish, but make sure to state whether you allow us to include your story as part of the exhibit.



Gallery 400 at the University of Illinois at Chicago welcomes all visitors and strives to make every effort to accommodate guests with various needs.

Getting to Gallery 400

The Gallery has a wheelchair-accessible entrance and elevators. Art & Exhibition Hall, where Gallery 400 is located, is an older building with many documented instances of elevator functionality issues. If you experience issues with the elevator upon entry, please notify Gallery 400 staff at 312.996.6114 or building manager Chris Markin at 312.413.1001. To confirm there are no barriers to accessibility on the day of your visit, please call 312.996.6114.

Gender neutral and wheelchair accessible restrooms are located on the same floor as Gallery 400. While the restrooms are accessible to wheelchair users, the door to the restroom is not. Visitors who use wheelchairs can request personal assistance with opening and closing the restroom doors at the Gallery 400 front desk.

Inside the Gallery

Personal assistance is provided in the exhibition space by attendants at the front desk.

iPads are available at the Gallery 400 front desk from which users can log on to an accessible website for the exhibition that is enabled for screen readers and voiceover technology. This website includes audio descriptions of artworks.

Large print versions of exhibition labels can be requested at the front desk.

Gallery 400 can arrange for a sign language interpreter to be provided through the UIC Disability Resource Center. Please contact the Gallery at 312.996.6114 or to arrange.

Sensory spaces are available in the rear of the gallery. Please ask the attendant at the front desk for assistance.

To arrange a guided tour of the exhibition for your group, please complete a tour request form.

To inquire about accessibility accommodations or for more information, please contact Gallery 400 at 312.996.6114 or

Additional Resources

If you are a UIC student, faculty, or staff member and want to know more about disability services at UIC, please visit the Disability Resource Center website.

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