How do we give and receive care?
In this context, there exists the dislikable notion of ‘vulnerable groups’ that need more help than others and thus are limited in their actions. That is especially the case for physically disabled people.
But where does disability start? Is it the medical condition which is declaring people as disabled or is it the surroundings, the social environment? Is is the disability which disables?
Our observation: People are being disabled – by other people, objects, environments. As such, people aren’t disabled, but they are impaired. Only when their impairments collide with the environment, we can talk of disability. Also, often the language used is misleading and leaves a biased image of disability. This should be a final call to apply universal design, as design should be as barrier-free as possible and disability is to be understood multidimensional.
To face our design challenge, we agreed to do research about an superordinate topic: How can we change society’s persepective about disability?
While gathering information, we came up with further questions:
How can we make environments inclusive from the beginning so that it’s not ‘us’ versus ‘them’ anymore? How can we focus on what they can do instead on what they can’t do? How can we change the exclusive language? Do we only have disabled people because we lable them this way?
And finally, how can we design something which is inclusive by design and not by label? This design question as our current state of research still has to be refined.
In order to focus our design question, we tried to narrow down our target group, which is kind of tricky as we want to reach out to the disabled people as well as ‘society’ as a whole. So we will try to integrate both in our future findings and design iterations.
Something which was very clear to us was the following: Shockingly, we know almost nothing about disabilities! So what do we know?
We only make assumptions about disabled people facing limitations, not being able to live freely, not being able to have a fulfilled life or to carry out all activities a non disabled person would do. We assume they always need a person they can depend on and face social isolation as well as isolation through physcial objects, meaning barriers. Paradoxically, we don’t know what they CAN do. We seem to only know what they can’t do. And we know that there is this exclusive setting for the disabled, prejudice and fear of contact.
We searched for leads and areas where disability appears. We found many organizations and projects, like community projects, workshops, events. So the group members did field research by observation, recording, filming, taking interviews and hands-on activities – with famous motivational speakers and fascinating personalities like Raul Krauthausen, by visiting workshops and by experiencing blindness in a museum.
Disabled people need barrier-free environments, acceptance, suitable language and connection. They don’t need pity, special treatment, including being labled.
As there are several types of disabilities, it seems impossible to to address all of them in our design challenge: hearing or visual impairment, psychological, cognitive or motoric impairment – all of them need a different approach in the design process. Thus, in the iteration process, we are about to develop designs that are as inclusive as possible and that ensure the fundamental right of social participation to people with all kinds of impairments.
Our mission is to change the negative perception of disability and develop products or services so that people aren’t defined by their disablity. We found that disabiltiy is more a social phenomenon: there is no autonomous person, being dependent on someone is the most natural thing and everyone has their own restrictions. Childhood plays a crucial part in humans behaviour towards people who seem different as this stage is important for everyone’s personal development. Kids don’t have any fears of contact.
We want to make visible that there are benefits for both sides, the care giver and care taker, and we want to enable people to connect with each other through design.