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How Polio Changed Us, Social Effects

The effects of polio can be found throughout American culture: in the lives of people who survived it, through changes to philanthropy, and in new approaches to the design of everyday objects.

Universal Design
Universal Design, also called Design for All, originated in the 1960s and 1970s political movement to ensure equitable use of public space and facilities for all people. Founders Ron Mace and Ruth Lusher, who had had polio, prodded architects, builders, and designers about inclusion and helped to implement federal guidelines.

Left photo. Ron Mace in a wheelchair smiling for the camera
Right image. Principles of Universal Design poster showing 7 main principles
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Left: Ron Mace, founder of the movement for Universal Design
Right: The exhibition was conceptualized using the principles described in this poster.
Photo of books and objects related to Universal Design
This image includes several books and pamphlets related to Universal Design, as well as a levered door handle and a vegetable peeler with a textured, contoured grip. The handle and peeler illustrate the universal design principles related to ease of use and intuitive function.

FDR Dime
In 1946, the Mercury dime was replaced by the familiar FDR dime, which honors President Franklin Rooseveltís leadership in combating polio. The coin was designed by John R. Sinnock, chief engraver at the U.S. Mint.

Left image. Newspaper clipping of Roosevelt dime getting final approval at the U.S. Mint
Right photo. Front and back of the Roosevelt dime
Left: The Director of the U.S. Mints and the superintendent of the Phildelphia mint examine the bronze and plaster casts for the FDR dime, 1946 Courtesy of National Archives
Right: 1946 dime with likeness of Franklin D. Roosevelt

Candy Land and Candy Bars
People who had polio were responsible for some familiar household items, such as Milky Way Bars and the children's game, Candy Land.

Left photo. Photo of Frank Mars and historical Milky Way candy packages
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Right image. Board from Candy Land game
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Left: Frank C. Mars, seen here in the 1890s, contracted polio as an infant Courtesy of Mars Family. Mars Milky Way candy box from around 1930 and Mars company candy package Courtesy of Mars Family
Right: This is the first Candy Land board, from 1949. The game was invented by Eleanor Abbott in 1940. The 30 year old Abbott got the idea during her recuperation from polio, as a way to amuse herself and the children around her. Courtesy of Hasbro Games

Fund-raising Strategies
Fund-raisers for cancer, heart ailments, AIDS, and other diseases have adopted strategies for mass, grassroots giving that were used by the March of Dimes. The first March of Dimes walkathon, WalkAmerica, to obtain funds for research related to premature births and birth defects, took place in San Antonio, Texas, in 1970.

Photo of items used in fund-raisers
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Banner, pin, T-shirt, and iron-on patch promoting fund-raisers

Finding Clothes that Fit
The physical effects of polio often produce bodily differences that require patience and creativity in everyday activities.

Left photo. A pair of men's loafers, with the right show being of a smaller size
Right photo. Tobin and Jill Siebers standing in front of a tree on their wedding day
Left: Tobin Siebers’s red shoes Courtesy of Tobin Siebers
Right: Tobin and Jill Siebers at their wedding in 1981
 Photo of man in a wheelchair drinking from a water fountain

Since the 1970s, water fountains with increased usability have become familiar

Poster of a blind man standing on a train platform boarding a train

Universal Design principles include enlisting the senses to provide redundant information, such as with this train platform with a bright yellow and bumpy surface to warn people where to be cautious

Photo of front and back of Mercury head dime

Mercury head dime, replaced by the FDR dime in 1946

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