Designing the difference in an inclusive way
Editor: John Lawlor, Ger Reilly, Robert Simpson, Michael Ring, Ahmed Kovacevic, Mark McGrath, William Ion, David Tormey, Erik Bohemia, Chris McMahon, Brian Parkinson
Author: Almendra, Rita Assoreira
Institution: Technical University of Lisbon, Portugal
Section: Inclusive Design
This paper proposes inclusive product designing as a way of creating a more collaborative material culture and of engaging in a meaningful social dialogue among people. Illustrating the argument it will be briefly presented the result of two research studies (two supervised master students) aiming at critically solving design problems of specific groups of populations and regarding two different fields of action: sports - visually and hearing impaired individuals in the swimming field (that resulted in a toolkit of objects named WeSWIM) and medical area - an insulin taking diabetic all-in-one equipment. The proposed approaches strongly defend inclusivity since they, in distinct ways, act as social integrators given that the drivers of both designs are the access of users to autonomy in use, the leverage of self-esteem and the reduction of constraint while using the object in a social environment. One of the central issues to design research, education and practice at the XXI century is the change in demographics that clearly calls for an inclusive approach to the design thinking and acting. Being so, the research on how design can contribute to solve most of the problems arising from the diminishing physical and cognitive abilities should integrate the agenda of design research, education and practice as a priority topic. Both the studies being addressed in methodological terms favoured the qualitative methods that clearly capture best the user's experience â literature review, case-studies, survey, design project and experiments with sample and control groups. The results were two products/systems improving userâs performance and use both at the physical and cognitive ergonomic levels. With these two systems individuals with special needs can be better integrated in day life activities and in the case of the system created for swimmers those so called 'normal individuals' also benefit directly of the inclusive approach to design since they might use the system for training purposes.