.: 29 January 2015 :.

Design for All Workshops

“Design for All” was the topic of two intense days a lectures, interviews and brainstorms. Here is what I did and what I learned.

Kickoff Lecture

The week started with a Kickoff lecture by Semra Sahin, owner of Candan Design, a consultant company focusing on Design for All. During the lecture she gave a definition and shared design methods to Design for All. The core of her message was that simply awareness of disabled people in the design process can already make a huge difference for them. Ready to apply this in practice!

I also learned that being disabled and being handicapped is not the same. One can be disabled but not feeling handicapped.


Experience disability

Using some bandage I simulated a disfunctioning arm and kept it for the day. During this day I helped my team baking chocolate balls. This experience was quite insightful. Obviously, I struggled upon physical challenges such as going to the toilet. However unexpectedly the disability also had an impact on my mental condition. Every action took more time and more energy. As a result I did not feel like doing much. It was very tempting to be less active or ask for help all the time.

Unexpectedly my physical disability also had a great impact on my mental condition.


Interview Disabled Person

During the second day we sat down for an inspiring and insightful interview with a disabled person. The day’s biggest challenge for me was to get rich information from the short interview with our user. There was a language barrier, the user had difficulties speaking and the time was limited. The user started talking about the accident that caused her disability. In the beginning of the interview there was a huge focus on the negative impact of her disability on her life. I felt that atmosphere in the room was getting depressing.

When I asked her about her hobbies and what she enjoys in life she started to shine. Her eyes twinkled and passionately she told that she loves theatre, dancing and disco. I noticed that she continued this positive viewpoint during the rest of the interview. She became a very positive and inspirational person. As a result, the information we got was more valuable.

When I asked her about her hobbies and what she enjoys in life she started to shine.


Design for all through a Disability-first approach

After the interview we worked on a small design project. The goal of the design project was not to design for just disabled, but to design for all. However, by focusing on disabled people first, automatically we covered people without disabilities as well. I realized that this disability-first approach can be very useful.

One experience, different modalities

During our design project we designed a activity management application. The biggest challenge was to offer a similar experience through different modulaties. We questioned: “How does the experience change when the app dictates the activities instead of displays them?” We quickly decided to use speech recognition, but I can imagine this to have implications on the experience. In this case it would mean that the interface had to be designed from the ground up.

However I also realized that often it does not take so much extra effort to Design for All. Small design decisions based on a really basic understanding of people with disabilities can already make a huge difference.


Besides writing the reflection above, part of the school assignment was to answer the questions below.

What is your vision on how interaction designers work with Design for All in year 2030?

I see a huge potential in the maker movement. Already people are creating and 3D printing their own prothesis for example. I think that interaction designers will become more like tool creators. It is a challenge to design accessible and easy to use tools. The notion of Design for All should be adopted from the very start of the tool creation process. Still, an understanding of people is fundamental.

How should an IxD programme on MFA level be built in order for students to be able to work as competent designers in 2030?

I think that students should be more encouraged to put their creatures in the world. The value from tools emerge when people start to use them. The design process should not end not end when the product is delivered to the user, it only starts then. Products, especially systems grow, in a society and on people.

The value from tools emerge when people start to use them. Products and especially systems grow, in a society and on people.

Students should develop a better sensitivity to the potential growth of their products. For example: “How does a very open versus closed system influences it’s impact?” The only way to gain these skills is by publishing.

What do UID need to meet these changes?

I think that UID needs create projects consisting of at least two phases. The design (1) and the implementation (2). The two phases should be separated in time, allowing a product/tool/system two grow. However, the project should not be ignored during this transition.

© 2020 Martijn van den Broeck
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