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Fair by design: Addressing the paradox of inclusive design approaches



Inclusive design approaches like universal design prescribe addressing the needs of the widest possible audience in order to consider human differences. Taking differences seriously, however, may imply that “the widest possible audience” is severely restricted. In confronting this paradox, we recruit Rawls’ theory of justice as fairness. Applying Rawls’ principles to universal design implies that users derive which design allows for equitable use by deliberating under a veil of ignorance concerning their own capacities or limitations. Rather than addressing everyone’s needs, being designed universally then means matching what everyone would choose under the condition sketched. Since this can hardly apply to single artefacts, we suggest considering the social distribution of usability as the proper domain of fairness in design instead. Under this reading, just design concerns how usability is distributed across relevant users. Differences in usability are acceptable if overall usability for the worst offs is maximized.
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Fair by design. Addressing the paradox of inclusive
design approaches
Matteo Bianchin & Ann Heylighen
To cite this article: Matteo Bianchin & Ann Heylighen (2017) Fair by design. Addressing the
paradox of inclusive design approaches, The Design Journal, 20:sup1, S3162-S3170
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Fair by design. Addressing the paradox of
inclusive design approaches
Matteo Bianchina, Ann Heylighenb*
a University of Milano-Bicocca, Dept. of Human Sciences
b KU Leuven, Dept. of Architecture, Research[x]Design
*Corresponding author e-mail:
Abstract: Inclusive design approaches like universal design prescribe addressing the
needs of the widest possible audience in order to consider human differences.
Taking differences seriously, however, may imply that “the widest possible
audience” is severely restricted. In confronting this paradox, we recruit Rawls
theory of justice as fairness. Applying Rawls’ principles to universal design implies
that users derive which design allows for equitable use by deliberating under a veil
of ignorance concerning their own capacities or limitations. Rather than addressing
everyone’s needs, being designed universally then means matching what everyone
would choose under the condition sketched. Since this can hardly apply to single
artefacts, we suggest considering the social distribution of usability as the proper
domain of fairness in design instead. Under this reading, just design concerns how
usability is distributed across relevant users. Differences in usability are acceptable
if overall usability for the worst offs is maximized.
Keywords: Fairness, Inclusive design, Justice, Universal design, Universality
1. Introduction
In the past years, the design community witnessed the development of several design approaches
aiming at inclusivity. Depending on the continent or region, these approaches are called universal
design (Mace, 1985; Preiser and Ostroff, 2001; Steinfeld and Maisel, 2012), inclusive design
(Coleman, 1994; Imrie and Hall, 2001; Coleman, Lebbon, Clarkson and Keates, 2003) or design for all
(EIDD Design for All Europe, 2004). Despite some semantic distinctions, all three approaches share a
similar purpose: to “ensure that […] products and services address the needs of the widest possible
audience, irrespective of age or ability” (Design Council, 2009). For this reason, they are henceforth
referred to as ‘inclusive design approaches’ or, in short, ‘inclusive design’. Their common purpose is
based on two premises (Clarkson and Coleman 2015: 235):
1. “there is such considerable diversity in mental and physical capability both across the
population and over the length of the life-course that the association of ‘normality’
with ‘able-bodiedness’ is neither accurate nor acceptable”;
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2. “disability arises from interactions with the surrounding environment that are
amenable to design and structural interventions, and not inherently from capability
levels, health status, or associated degrees of impairment”.
Characteristic of these inclusive design approaches is their utopian character. The crux is that it
seems impossible to really design for “everyone”. On the one hand, human differences are too wide
to be taken into account in all their varieties. On the other hand, it is reasonable to expect that trade-
offs are the normal case. Designing to the benefit of the needs connected with a specific kind of
capacity is likely to entail some cost with respect to the satisfaction of other needs what is good for
someone who is blind may be different from what is good for someone in a wheelchair. Moreover,
given that a moderate scarcity of resources is the normal condition of human societies, choices are
likely to be made among concurrent demands. Thus, rather than reconciliation with the diversity of
human needs, the output of adopting the stance of inclusive design looks to be conflict. It will always
turn out that somebody’s perspective has not been taken into account or worse has been
harmed. This feature of inclusive design is not only clearly acknowledged as suggested by the term
“possible” in the abovementioned definition, but even advanced as a determinative characteristic
(Duncan, 2007). In this context, some authors use terms like ‘‘universal designing’’ (Steinfeld &
Tauke, 2002), or ‘‘design for more’’ (Herssens, 2011), so as to capture in words the unceasing and
dynamic endeavour.
Because of this utopian character, however, critics tend to consider inclusive design approaches in
general, and universal design in particular as unrealistic, and use this as an argument not to adopt or
teach them (De Cauwer et al., 2009). The question whether universal design is realistic, however, has
to do specifically with the differences found in human needs and the moderate scarcity of resources
that is characteristic of the human condition, more than with a generic impossibility of designing for
each and everyone according to her specific needs or better, the latter limitation depends on the
former (Heylighen, 2014; Winance, 2014). Thus the point is: to what extent is it possible to design a
product, space or service that, at the same time, allows for equitable use by everyone and respects
the diversity in people’s capacities? In this respect, inclusive design approaches seem to face a
paradoxical condition. On the one hand, they prescribe to address the needs of the widest possible
audience in order to take into account human differences. On the other hand, taking human
differences seriously seems to imply that nothing can be designed that meets the needs of everyone,
so that “the widest possible audience” may turn out to be severely restricted.
This paper therefore seeks to contribute to addressing this paradox by focusing on the question what
the utopian character of inclusive design implies for design practice. For if inclusive design taken
literally is an unattainable goal, the question arises how designers can be fair to users. In order to
answer this question we turn to the conceptual and theoretical tools provided by contemporary
theories of justice and in particular to the theory of justice as fairness of moral and political
philosopher John Rawls (1971; 1986; 1993). A similar question in fact arises in the context of
designing the principles according to which the benefits and costs of cooperation are to be
distributed among participants in a society conceived as a system of cooperation characterized by a
widespread pluralism of values and conceptions of what it is to lead a good life.
The working hypothesis is that the conceptual tools provided by Rawls’ theory of justice as fairness
may be recruited by design theory in order to confront the issue at stake. The paper’s objective is to
contribute to a theory of just design that offers a way out of the paradox of inclusive design.
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Fair by design
2. General frame
Critics have pointed at the lack of academic attention for and critical scrutiny of the overarching
principles of inclusive design approaches like universal design, their understanding, and their
placement into practice (Imrie, 2012). Exceptions to this rule include studies which confront universal
design with a critical theory paradigm (D’Souza 2004), design theory (Heylighen, 2014), design
practice (Van der Linden et al., 2016), or informational and market issues (Tobias 2003). Yet other
studies analyse how inclusivity relates to quality in design and suggest that a deliberative approach
to inclusive design can both help to understand their connection and confront the questions it raises
about the relationship between designers and users (e.g., Bianchin & Heylighen 2010, Heylighen &
Bianchin 2013).
In this respect, it is noteworthy to consider that researchers have recently stressed the relevance of
ethics and social issues to design in general, and inclusive design in particular. It has been claimed
that focusing on democracy and justice is of paramount importance to address ethical and social
issues that arise within design theory (Pols & Spahn 2015: 366). On the one hand, inclusive design
seems connected with a democratic attitude according to which all who are affected by the output of
a design process should be included in this process according to a deliberative approach to design
that is explicitly connected with the recent deliberative trend in democratic theory (Heylighen &
BIanchin 2013). On the other hand, as pointed out in the introduction, inclusive design seems faced
with a paradox that is naturally connected with a question of justice. In this sense it has been
stressed that, while design methods tend to make reference at least implicitly to the values of
democracy and justice, no reference to a specific theory of democracy and justice is made (Pols &
Spahn 2015).
We address the demand for a theoretical approach by specifying how the theory of justice can be
applied to confront the paradox of inclusive design. The point is that what we label the paradox of
inclusive design can be easily seen as raising a question of justice, as it flows from the requirement
that the demands stemming from different and potentially conflicting needs can be answered. More
specifically the very idea of designing for the largest possible audience faces two connected
problems, as it rather obviously operates in conditions of moderate scarcity of resources. The idea of
a moderate scarcity in this context is a relatively technical notion stemming from David Hume. It is
meant neither to provide a measure of the resources over which agents dispose in a specific
situation, nor to suggest a condition in which resources are subject to especially severe limitations. It
is meant to convey the rather uncontroversial view that human agency is constrained by the fact that
resources are not enough to satisfy the needs and/or desires of all agents and thus agents are likely
to compete and conflict over the allocation of goods. This is paradigmatically the condition under
which value disagreement and a conflict of interest that naturally proceeds from human differences
give rise to a demand for justice, i.e., a demand for general principles according to which conflicts
can be adjudicated in ways that can be justified to all those who will be affected (Hume 1738-49,
Rawls 1971).
The problems are appropriately identified by Simeon Keates: (a) “many users with severe functional
impairments require solutions that would hamper other users” (Keates 2015: 392) and (b) “It is often
hard to prioritize which issues are the most important to fix and, occasionally, which ones may
actually harm the overall usability and accessibility of the product” (Keates 2015: 398). Keates
stresses that, while this is difficult enough for designers where the users are homogeneous, in the
case of inclusive design, they are often very heterogeneous. Keates concludes that organizations and
designers need assistance to help prioritize the most important issues (ibid.). This is important
because it acknowledges that issues do not order themselves according to a naturally shared system
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of priorities. Individuals tend in fact to diverge about the priority that should be given to different
issues as a result of endorsing different values or conceptions of the good life. This is commonly
recognized in moral and political philosophy as the fact of pluralism. Although different readings can
be given of what the fact of pluralism amounts to, the common view is that people in a free society
tend to be committed to different and conflicting beliefs, values, and conceptions of the good life
(Rawls 1993, Habermas 1983, Gutman, Thompson 2004).
A moderate scarcity of resources and the fact of pluralism prototypically design the conditions under
which a conflict of interest gives rise to questions of justice: they require some principles to be fixed
according to which goods are distributed in a situation where conflicting claims arise about the
priority to be accorded to the satisfaction of specific needs and interests. In what follows we explore
to what extent a theory of justice as fairness provides tools to confront these issues and therefore
solve the paradox of inclusive design. We proceed as follows. First, we define justice in general
according to Rawls theory of justice as fairness and proceed to apply that conception to inclusive
design. Second, we analyse this approach focusing on design practice. Third, we suggest a way out of
the paradox of inclusive design by considering the distribution of artefacts in a society, instead of
single artefacts, as the domain of application for fairness in design. Finally, we conclude by
identifying four problems which arise when trying to address the paradox of inclusive design in this
3. Towards a theory of just design
3.1 Justice defined
By way of first step towards a theory of just design, we define justice in general according to Rawls’
theory of justice as fairness. A good reason to look at Rawls theory of justice as fairness is that it
explicitly aims at justifying the principles of justice that govern the distributions of benefits resulting
from social cooperation among agents that differ in their natural talents and capacities as well as in
their social position and their conceptions of the good life.
The theoretical tools to confront the task are provided by the idea of the original position, conceived
along the lines of social contract theory as the hypothetical initial situation in which agents
collectively choose the principles according to which basic social institutions will be regulated. The
basic assumption here is that society is a system of cooperation and that social institutions
fundamentally rest on collective acceptance, as no system of cooperation that it is supported by
mere coercion or deception can be stable over time (Rawls 1971; Searle 1995, 2010). The principles
that regulate basic social institutions must be justified to those who are bound by them in order for a
system of cooperation to be stable over time.
In this context Rawls’ theory suggests that, in order to come out with a result that can be justified to
all, agents are to choose the principles of justice under a veil of ignorance that blinds the knowledge
they possess of their own natural assets and abilities, their social position, their conception of the
good, amongst others. Agents are supposedly provided with the knowledge of general facts about
psychology, society including that of moderate scarcity and human life. Moreover, agents are
taken to be rational in that they are endowed with a conception of the good and the capacity for
instrumental reasoning. Finally, they are generally taken to be provided with the motivation to agree
on fair terms of cooperation and to comply with them once they are in place (Rawls 1971, 1993). The
veil of ignorance just screens out the information that would lead to arbitrarily favouring a specific
party since we cannot reasonably expect our views to fall into line when they are affected by the
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Fair by design
contingencies of our different circumstances" (Rawls 1971: 517).
Rawls thus understands the original position as a “device of representation” designed to convert a
question of justification into a deliberative problem. The original position models the conditions
under which agents that regard themselves as free and equal are supposed to reach an agreement,
and therefore constrains what can be put forward as a good reason in deliberating the principles of
justice. It works as a constraint on deliberation insofar as it conveys an impartial and fair point of
view that expresses the self-conception of agents as free and equal rational beings (Rawls 1971,
1985; Freeman 2007; Barry 1995).
The expected result is that under this condition rational agents will chose principles that maximize
the welfare of the worst off while protecting individual freedom and a fair equality of opportunity
(Rawls, 1971; Freeman, 2007).
An important point in Rawls’ theory is that justice turns out to be defined in purely procedural terms,
since what counts as the principles is generated by a procedure that is constitutive of the correct
output. Justice, that is, is defined not independently from the procedure adopted, but rather as the
output of an independent procedure designed to tackle the problem of justification (Elgin 1996).
3.2 Justice in design practice
The second step towards a theory of just design is to analyse how Rawls’ approach to defining justice
may fare as seen from the perspective of design practice.
To achieve the purpose of inclusive design, i.e., to address the needs of the widest possible audience,
designers seek resonance between the needs of particular groups and the needs of the entire
population (Pullin & Newell 2007, Andrews 2014). Pullin and Newell (2007) describe design
resonance as a situation “where the needs of the people who have a particular disability coincide
with particular able bodied users in particular contexts”. For example, navigating sidewalks with a
trolley or pram has resonance with navigating them with a wheelchair both benefit from curb cuts,
i.e., sidewalks flattening into the street. Similarly, communicating in a noisy environment resembles
the situation of people who are deaf or speech impaired.
Often, however, seeking resonance between the needs of particular groups and those of the entire
population is not trivial. The vantage point Rawls’ theory of justice offers in this context is rather
obvious. There is no need to decide in advance what is good for all and/or for each specific group or
individual in this case. Instead a procedure is provided from which can be derived what design is just
as a result, according to the general structure of justice as fairness (Barry, 1995; D’Agostino et al.,
If we proceed to apply this conception to inclusive design approaches like universal design, the
upshot is shifting the way “universal” is understood. To be universal for a designed artefact would
not mean that everyone has to be enabled to use it in an equitable way. This is in fact impossible,
given human differences. Yet its design can be taken to be universal if it accords to what would be
chosen by everyone under the condition sketched, that is under a veil of ignorance about their
capacities. This shifts the perspective from considering universal usability in terms of the concrete
use one can make of an artefact to considering it in terms of a specific constraint imposed on the
choice about how artefacts must be designed in order to pay equal respect to all possible users.
Fairness, however, can hardly be applied to inclusive design issues for single artefacts. Given human
differences, virtually no artefact can in fact be designed that can be used by each according to her
own specific capacity. Moreover, to design an artefact so that usability for the worst off is
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maximized, may severely restrict the usability for users with different capacities or with a different
level of capacity of the same kind. A classic example are the abovementioned curb cuts: while they
are important for people in a wheelchair and comfortable for people with a trolley or pram, they
cause problems for pedestrians who are vision impaired as they rely on a sharp curb to detect the
edge of the sidewalk. With respect to design practice, thus either fairness or universality seem to fail.
3.3 A way out of the paradox
A possible way out of the paradox of inclusive design is considering the distribution of artefacts in a
society, instead of single artefacts, as the domain of application for fairness in design. In this context,
any group, institution, relationship characterized as a system of cooperation can be counted as a
society. States, neighbourhoods, NGOs and cities can be all considered as relevant in this sense as
well as a transport system, a hospital, or the audience of a movie theatre. According to this reading,
the principles of justice apply not to the problem of designing a specific artefact in a way that
maximizes usability for the worst offs, but to a different problem: the problem of distributing
usability in a society taken as a whole, so that usability for the worst offs is maximized.
This may involve that we should accept some difference in usability provided that the solution
maximizes the results for the worst offs in general. In this sense, just design does not rest on whether
each user can use an artefact in the same way. On the contrary, it can manage the fact that some
users will get more than others by considering a solution just if and only if relative differences go
generally to the advantage of the less able or most disadvantaged.
This seems to provide a solution to what we labelled the paradox of inclusive design: inclusive design
prescribes to address the needs of the widest possible audience, yet taking human differences
seriously will severely restrict “the widest possible audience”. Shifting the understanding of
“universal” along the procedural line suggested above and focusing on the social distribution of
usability rather than on the usability of single artefacts allows for a non-paradoxical understanding of
inclusive design. According to this understanding, the apparent contradiction between the aim of
designing for the widest possible audience and that of taking difference seriously can be treated as
raising a question of justice, and confronted by a procedural conception of justice as fairness.
An important implication of this approach is that it helps clarifying the relationship between inclusive
and universal design. We can define design as “universal” if it respects the sketched procedure, and
“inclusive” according to the people involved in the relevant decision-making. Inclusivity in this case is
relocated from the condition under which people use an artefact concretely to the condition under
which people decide how usability is to be distributed. The point about inclusivity is not that all have
equal right to use the artefact, but that all should have equal right to participate in the decision
about which artefact is to be designed (Heylighen & Bianchin, 2013).
4. Conclusion
We have presented a first attempt at developing a general definition of just design and, based on this
definition, at solving the paradox of inclusive design. Our strategy has been to explore to what extent
Rawls’ theory of justice as fairness can be applied to design practice. The upshot is that a shift in the
definition of universal design is required as part of the proposed solution.
Several questions of course remain to be addressed. To start with, there are questions internal to the
very project of applying a theory of justice to design practice. A theory of justice is designed to apply
to the basic social institutions, and it is an open question whether and how much changing it will
undergo when applied to a more restricted and informal context. In the sense relevant to the task of
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Fair by design
defining what is fair in design, design practice seems to count as a social context, however. The issue
may thus bear some similarity with the task of applying justice as fairness within the family (Okin
Another problem is that of balancing justice with efficiency in this context, as just design may entail
not only a loss in efficiency but also a loss in general usability. Rawls theory implies that distributive
differences may be allowed only when they advantage the worst off. It is an open question in our
view whether and how far this applies to usability.
Furthermore, there may be no primary, purely instrumental features of artefacts that in design
theory play the role of primary goods in the standard theory of justice. As long as the functions for
which artefacts are designed make reference to use-plans it seems that actual capacities, knowledge
and circumstances of particular persons should be taken into account (Houkes & Vermaas 2010;
Oosterlaken, 2009; 2012). If this is true, the instrumental features of artefacts only make sense
within specific teleological contexts and there may be no way to abstract teleology away from
A final problem is how to characterize and identify the worst offs in this context. For instance, is
having difficulty to get on or off a sidewalk, as people in wheelchairs and people with a pram or
trolley may experience, worse than lacking a guideline to navigate that sidewalk for people who are
vision impaired, or the other way around?
Awaiting further analysis of these questions, the approach advanced in this paper highlights the
relationship between design practice and the social context, and more generally the relevance of
design practice to political issues - and vice-versa. It makes explicit the political implications of design
theory, which is likely to challenge prevailing understandings in this area. In addition, the approach
extends the domain of justice to the realm of design practice, which is likely to promote new
research in this domain.
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About the Authors:
Matteo Bianchin is an associate professor at the University of Milano-Bicocca. His
research focuses mainly on the Philosophy of Mind, the Philosophy of Social Science, and
Political Philosophy.
Ann Heylighen is a research professor at the University of Leuven (KU Leuven) where she
co-chairs the Research[x]Design group. Her current research looks into how space is
experienced, how space is designed, and the relation between both.
Acknowledgements: the research reported in this paper received support from the
Research Fund KU Leuven in the form of a Senior Fellowship grant, grant N° SF/16/005.
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... Over the past few decades, the design community has explored methods of humancentred Inclusive Design. Based on historical origin and regional application, these terms vary among Accessible Design [29,30], Universal Design [16,[31][32][33], Inclusive Design [1,[3][4][5]7,14,15,17], and Design for All [34][35][36][37][38]. While all four terms are related, the latter three are most similar in providing an equitable approach to design rather than a compliance-focused one. ...
... No matter the terminology, Inclusive Design cannot be fully realised through research, best practice implementation, and policy enactment alone. It is critical that diverse users be included in the design process to ensure fairness in design [15] and exercise their right to participate [80]. Indeed, as Stefan Johansson suggests, "design for participation and inclusion will follow" [87]. ...
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Industry and academic perspectives have become more focused on designing for Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) over the past few years, both in general and particularly within the built environment. This renewed interest appears to have stemmed from a basis of respect-based ‘due diligence’ in 2018 to one of necessity in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic brought areas of difference into focus and exacerbated them, making it harder for people to live their everyday lives. In this paper, the authors seek to bridge the divide between academia and industry on the subject of Inclusive Design (ID) through their use of a combination of an academic and grey literature review as well as empirical research conducted with scholars and practitioners. These multiple methods focus less on the academic perspectives and more on how the industry has responded to the research and market demand. It clarifies nuanced differences among ID-related terms, provides best practice examples for wellness in the built environment, and identifies governing body guidelines (i.e., principles, protocols, policies) that have been enacted for ethical and business differentiating purposes.
... Equality, diversity and inclusion are the broad aims of Inclusive Design, as suggested by the UK's Engineering Council (Engineering Council 2020). Equality and inclusion may be achieved by design fairness (Bianchin and Heylighen 2017) and design justice (Bianchin and Heylighen 2018). Using John Rawls' theory of justice (Rawls 1999), Bianchin and Heylighen have explored how usability is distributed in society. ...
... Equality, diversity and inclusion are the broad aims of Inclusive Design, as suggested by the UK's Engineering Council (Engineering Council 2020). Equality and inclusion may be achieved by design fairness (Bianchin and Heylighen 2017) and design justice (Bianchin and Heylighen 2018). Using John Rawls' theory of justice (Rawls 1999), Bianchin and Heylighen have explored how usability is distributed in society. ...
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The value of Inclusive Design comes from creating a comparative advantage over other modes of provision, and the usability distribution approach provides a new way of thinking Inclusive Design. However, the value of usability and user experience vary from one person to another. With the aim to deal with the conflicts arising from users’ different needs and preferences, this study develops new interpretations and visualisations of three key concepts, i.e., Design Exclusion, Inclusive Design, and Equality, for the entrepreneurial context. It identifies various pathways towards inclusion and illustrates a successful case of applying Inclusive Design Thinking by a start-up enterprise. The Inclusive Design Thinking proposed will help entrepreneurs to discover and create new opportunities to accommodate the unmet needs, potentially through optimising the matching of design to diverse needs and increasing the efficiency of resource use.
... Justice should aim at the broadest possible audience and not focus on considering treatment in terms of utility. (Bianchin & Heylighen, 2017). ...
Population growth happens quickly in Indonesia, especially in Jakarta. With reduced land due to infrastructure development, population growth does not go parallel with the need for housing, which should be a basic need for every human being. This makes the construction of residential houses arranged vertically called public housing. It can reduce land use and create urban open spaces. Public housing should be based on an inclusive design approach that considers human diversity. The design of public housing in Indonesia has not met the needs of all humans, especially in the aspect of all ages and disabilities. The design of the building is still not based on the togetherness of user activities. In the design, it is expected that the use is carried out fairly, which is fair for users and flexibility in space. Aspects of equitable use by pedestrian access and facilities, along with space flexibility based on expandability, convertibility, and versatility. The method used is a qualitative method with the exploration of three cases of public housings. The variables used are inclusive design aspects related to equitable use and flexibility in use. The results reveal that public housing is recommended according to equitable use aspects, inclusive design factors with pedestrian access that is easy to understand and accessible to elderly users and wheelchairs, and affordable facilities. Spaces can be built in the long term with space flexibility, such as multifunctional communal spaces, expansion of spaces near public spaces for unexpected uses, as well as shared use for all users.
... Literature within the field of Inclusive Design suggests that we may be entering a new era where practitioners in the field are questioning what it means to be inclusive (Bianchin and Heylighen, 2017;2018). Dong (2020) proposes four stages of Inclusive Design, based on how the practice has evolved over the decades. ...
... The more differences are taken into account, the less designed artifacts are likely to be usable by anyone and trade-offs can be expected to arise because responding to differentially specific needs will involve costs as to responding to other needs. Conversely the more artifacts design targets usability for all, the less it is likely to be specialized on pain of turning out so complex that overall usability decreases dramatically (Bianchin & Heylighen, 2017). When considering the autism spectrum, for instance, accommodating the needs of hyporeactive people may severely restrict the usability for hyperreactive people, and vice versa. ...
Conference Paper
In this paper, we outline a framework for justice in design practice that escape the paradox inclusive design seems to be trapped in and introduces three tools to meet the demands it raises: Rawls’s idea of the original position, cognitive empathy, and public deliberation. We suggest that applying these tools to the design process makes sense of inclusive design as an effective design stance and allows meeting the demands for equitable use it raises.
... • Lack of access to end users, who are able to define their needs and preferences. Design education endeavours to provide a broad enough design knowledge so that graduates may reasonably design for the masses, and essentially be employable, Design as an industry still struggling with the paradox of designing for all [7]. We have sought to alleviate the issue of miscommunication of need, and misinterpretation of solution requirements that are endemic of working with young people for whom limited life experience limit understanding and typically concludes with partially suitable solutions for older/marginalised people. ...
Conference Paper
Conducted from June 2020 until the time of writing, this design research activity was conducted as part of the 3 year, H2020, Pan European TInnGO project which aims to create a sustainable paradigm shift in gender and diversity mainstreaming in transport. Such a shift is needed due to the lack of sex disaggregated gender data, gender gaps in employment and decision making and women in STE(A)M able to rise to leadership positions. This lack of diversity at all levels of transport, together with difficulties in engaging ‘hard to reach groups’ in transport planning, means that transport services and innovation continue to fail to consider gender and diversity. This would also encourage design input into future transport. A central concept of TInnGO was to use design activities as provocations and ways to engage with people in new ways – e.g. through visualizations, vignettes and cocreation activities – to develop greater insights into mobility problems and drive gender and diversity sensitive smart mobility solutions. Led by Coventry University, it was anticipated that this would entail management and leadership of codesign sessions in 10 Pan-European hubs. The Covid-19 pandemic significantly disrupted plans, making travel, physical co-design and contact with vulnerable groups impossible. The paper discusses strategies developed to work with placement students to develop gender and diversity sensitive smart mobility design provocations based on information provided by national hubs, and the technological challenges computer supported co- operative design posed.
... Diverse ideas about good (Rawls 1999) Conflicts of interest division requirements (Rawls 1993) Freedom first, reasonable diversity (Rawls 2001) Maximising the overall usability for the worst offs (Bianchin and Heylighen 2017); Participatory design (Bianchin and Heylighen 2018) ...
Technical Report
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Design for All Newsletter issue on 'Sustaining Inclusive Design Collaboration through Co-design platforms' (Nov, 2020). In this newsletter, many of the participants of the SIDe Programme have reflected on their experiences of inclusive design collaboration. The 11 articles cover both university and NGO perspectives, with a focus on the SIDe programme and extending to good practice (in teaching, and in collaboration) and theory on value creation and value re-distribution.
Conference Paper
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This paper sets out to-for the first time-critically review the history of Inclusive Design on two distinct levels, i.e. the narratives that shape it and the historical milestones which contribute to its evolution. Through an illustrative review of literature and object ethnography, two sets of timelines are outlined. First, a milestone timeline helps establish the chronological evolution of Inclusive Design based on historical milestones and sociocultural perspectives. Second, a narrative timeline helps uncover the underlying narratives around matters of disability, design and inclusivity, and how they evolved. This first timeline review of narratives and milestones; a) identifies historical and emerging shifts in direction and mentality; b) offers granular as well as holistic views; and c) poses major questions onto Inclusive Design as a field in need of more critically reflective approaches-both conceptually and in practice.
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As artificial intelligence (AI) deployment is growing exponentially, questions have been raised whether the developed AI ethics discourse is apt to address the currently pressing questions in the field. Building on critical theory, this article aims to expand the scope of AI ethics by arguing that in addition to ethical principles and design, the organizational dimension (i.e. the background assumptions and values influencing design processes) plays a pivotal role in the operationalization of ethics in AI development and deployment contexts. Through the prism of critical theory, and the notions of underdetermination and technical code as developed by Feenberg in particular, the organizational dimension is related to two general challenges in operationalizing ethical principles in AI: (a) the challenge of ethical principles placing conflicting demands on an AI design that cannot be satisfied simultaneously, for which the term ‘inter-principle tension’ is coined, and (b) the challenge of translating an ethical principle to a technological form, constraint or demand, for which the term ‘intra-principle tension’ is coined. Rather than discussing principles, methods or metrics, the notion of technical code precipitates a discussion on the subsequent questions of value decisions, governance and procedural checks and balances. It is held that including and interrogating the organizational context in AI ethics approaches allows for a more in depth understanding of the current challenges concerning the formalization and implementation of ethical principles as well as of the ways in which these challenges could be met.
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The value discussion has been the central concern in economics and design, but the concepts are abstract and sometimes can be elusive. This paper summarised economic theories on design value creation, and theories of fairness/justice (a core aspect of inclusive design) on design value distribution. The advancing of behavioural economics and its implication to value discussion in Inclusive Design were explored. The fair distribution of value through inclusive design was explained. Two levels of value that would enrich the value discussion in inclusive design were identified: the first level is value creation by transforming tacit user knowledge into explicit marketable products; the second level is value distribution by creating mutually benefitted cooperation environments among stakeholders.
"To explicate the idea of the social contract we analyze contractual approaches into five elements: (1) the role of the social contract (2) the parties (3) agreement (4) the object of agreement (5) what the agreement is supposed to show."
Studies in architectural theory and design research have greatly multiplied in recent years. However, relatively little research has been conducted on the multisensory experience of the built environment. Even if it is generally agreed that we experience the built environment with all senses, few architects bear in mind the haptic, olfactory, gustatory and auditory sense while designing. Design research as well as architectural theory refer to a visual bias that is culturally ingrained. As Nigel Cross states, architects and other designers know, think and design in a very visual way. Moreover, vision is often quoted as the spatial sense par excellence and our Western civilization is said to be dominated by vision. Nevertheless, if architects design with more attention to non-visual senses, they can contribute to more inclusive environments. Indeed if an environment offers a range of sensory triggers, people with different sensory capacities are able to navigate and enjoy it and are free to rely on the available sensory information. Rather than implementing as many sensory triggers as possible, the intention is to make the built environment accessible and enjoyable for more people, in line with the objective of ‘Inclusive Design’ (U.K.), ‘Design for All’ (E.U.), or ‘Universal Design’ (U.S.). In this research we use the umbrella term ‘Designing for More’ (DfM) for several reasons: first to stress the non-stop iterative nature of an inclusive design process; secondly to avoid confusion amongst and prejudices associated with some terms; thirdly because this research adopts a cultural approach in which people with a disability are involved as experts in the research process. The research design is considered to be a DfM-process in itself and is set up around four tracks:• a theoretical track• an empirical track• a design track• an evaluation trackThe user/experts for this research are people born blind because they have learned to be more attentive to non-visual stimuli. The main objective is the analysis of haptic experiences in the built environment with the help of people born blind. In order to identify haptic experiences in the built environment, we adopted a qualitative research approach, following the principles of Grounded Theory. Qualitative research is considered as an interdisciplinary field in which theory and practice can interact. Within this overall objective, the aim of this research is to develop a framework of haptic design parameters to support architects in implementing haptic experiences during design. In this study haptic design parameters are defined as variable characteristics that can be decided upon by architects during the design process, and the value of which is a determinant of haptic characteristics of the resulting building or space. Haptic spatial perception involves all the perceptual processes related to the sense of touch. In relation to the built environment, we argue, haptic perception involves active as well as dynamic and passive touch. Whereas active and dynamic touchrequire movement from the body itself, passive touch arises from movement in the environment.Theoretical TrackThe theoretical track outlines three main parts that discuss three subthemes: the search for experience in architecture, the meaning of experience as a form of expertise for people born blind and the characteristics of haptic experiences. The theoretical track concludes by giving an overview and linking these three parts together into a theoretical framework that represents our approach towards a haptic experience in the built environment based on the expertise of people born blind. This framework outlines haptic experience in the built environment as the result of three mental processes. These mental processes take place at three different levels: the level of perception, the level of memory and the level of meaning. The three levels will offer a foundation for the analysis of the empirical track.Empirical TrackThe empirical track investigates how and why people touch and partly reveals what is touched. In order to obtain richer material we chose to combine multiple methods to collect data on haptic qualities and obstacles in the built environment: 1. Home visits with adults born blind2. Photo-ethnographic tours by children born blind3. Focus Group Interviews with caregivers of people born blind. The findings of these theoretical and empirical studies are threefold. On the one hand haptic qualities and obstacles regarding the built environment are identified. In addition, the results inform us on people’s haptic perception of the environment. Finally, the different research methods turn out to be relevant for sensory research. Design TrackTriangulating the key results of the empirical studies, and confronting these with the findings of the theoretical track, resulted in an outline of a framework for haptic design parameters. The theoretical and empirical results show that haptic experience in the built environment relies on an interaction between context, experience and design parameters. This results in a framework that consists out of a main grid representing the context. In context we distinguish the modes of touch (active, dynamic and passive), the perceived affordance of the planes (moving, guiding, resting) and the difference in sensitivity of the body parts. Every possible combination in this main framework consists its own values for the design parameters linked to the experiential values.The latter are placed on an octant that shows the interaction between the different levels of mental processes that involve a haptic experience in the built environment: level of perception, level of memory and level of meaning. The values of the design parameters can change depending on these axes of perception, memory and meaning and of the values of the context. The haptic design parameters are described by material properties and geometrical properties. We consider texture, elasticity, air permeability, specific gravity and temperature as material parameters. Curvature, orientation, configuration and size are geometrical parameters. Additionally we propose some design techniques that rely on well-known spatial design practices in architecture to assess the haptic experiences of a design project. Evaluation TrackAs the framework of haptic design parameters is considered as a design itself, user/experts are involved to evaluate it in terms of content as well as usability: 1. to assess the wider relevance of the haptic qualities covered by the framework, a focus group interview was conducted with people who are not visually impaired. The group was composed of people with different backgrounds, ages and conditions, including young and older people, a pregnant woman, a wheelchair user, a person with autism, etc. The findings of the focus group interview suggest that the framework of haptic parameters resonates with the experiences of different users; 2. to assess the usability of the framework and techniques for design practice, a workshop was set up with professional architects. Feedback suggests that architects quickly picked up the idea of the framework, and recognized its relevance, but that the framework’s representation challenges us with a sensory paradox: while the parameters question the visual bias in architectural design, they are meant to be used by designers, who are used to think, know and work in a visual way. We conclude with the highlights on the theoretical,empirical and methodological results. In addition we reflect upon possible directions for future research.
Universal design is a term that was first used in the United States by Ron Mace (1985) although forms of it were quite prevalent in Europe long before. For the purpose of this chapter Universal Design is defined as ’the design of all products and environments to be usable by people of all ages and abilities to the greatest extent possible (Story, 2001, p. 10.3). Universal design in recent years has assumed growing importance as a new paradigm that aims at a holistic approach ranging in scale from product design (Balaram, 2001) to architecture (Mace, 1985), and urban design (Steinfield, 2001) on one hand and systems of media (Goldberg, 2001) and information technology (Brewer, 2001) on the other.
The book offers a profound understanding of how we create a social reality-a reality of money, property, governments, marriages, stock markets and cocktail parties. The paradox addressed is that these facts only exist because we think they exist and yet they have an objective existence. Continuing a line of investigation begun in his earlier book The Construction of Social Reality, the author identifies the precise role of language in the creation of all "institutional facts." His aim is to show how mind, language and civilization are natural products of the basic facts of the physical world described by physics, chemistry and biology. The author explains how a single linguistic operation, repeated over and over, is used to create and maintain the elaborate structures of human social institutions. These institutions serve to create and distribute power relations that are pervasive and often invisible. These power relations motivate human actions in a way that provides the glue that holds human civilization together. The author then applies the account to show how it relates to human rationality, the freedom of the will, the nature of political power and the existence of universal human rights. In the course of his explication, he asks whether robots can have institutions, why the threat of force so often lies behind institutions, and he denies that there can be such a thing as a "state of nature" for language-using human beings.
This document provides a short overview of the effects embracing resonance may have on the product design process. It introduces Pullin and Newells definition of resonance and provides examples of where levels of resonance have affected the success of a product. It overviews a case study in which the initial design, a tactile navigation aid for the Blind, was noted as exclusionary for sighted users and documents how recognising the resonance changed both the process and the output. Concluding that early recognition of resonance can enhance the product design process by forcing the designer to consider desirability beyond accessibility needs.