Disability + relevant design: a portfolio of approaches

DS 76: Proceedings of E&PDE 2013, the 15th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education, Dublin, Ireland, 05-06.09.2013

Year: 2013
Editor: John Lawlor, Ger Reilly, Robert Simpson, Michael Ring, Ahmed Kovacevic, Mark McGrath, William Ion, David Tormey, Erik Bohemia, Chris McMahon, Brian Parkinson
Author: Schneider, Sheila M.; McDonagh, Deana; Thomas, Joyce K.
Series: E&PDE
Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, United States of America
Section: Inclusive Design
Page(s): 440-446
ISBN: 978-1-904670-42-1


This paper discusses a multi-methodological approach to integrating the voice and experience of our diverse population (e.g. people with disabilities) into Industrial Design curricula. There is much to gain for all concerned by design students developing deeper insights and understanding of potential users, especially when we consider the shift in demographics (e.g. people are living longer, increase in population with disabilities). The role of the designer has changed, from the purveyor of taste, to one where gaining an empathic understanding of authentic human needs is critical. Empathy helps to ensure more effective design outcomes. Within the classroom we are integrating diverse voices into the designing process, by providing an interdisciplinary environment, which is also supported by empathic design research strategies (‘Disability + Relevant Design’ course). Outcomes of this new course have led to a major design award and have been exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution’s Folklife Festival in 2012 at the Mall in Washington, D.C. The authors will present a number of case studies, including course content, exhibition, design awards, and teaching aids, in order to promote this activity amongst the design community.

Keywords: Design, disability, interdisciplinarity, empathy, inclusion.


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