Crafting design spaces for inclusion?

The third ESRC seminar about universal design, held on February 21st 2014, brought together an interesting range of speakers who, collectively, highlighted some of the significant problems in seeking to design environments for everyone. The significance of something called ‘open design’ was highlighted, that is, the provision of resources for people to have freedoms to interact with (in) design and, through such interactions, to be able to shape how bodies and material artifacts conjoin and create the potential for positive social outcomes. The importance of developing design attuned to specific needs was discussed, including how far it might be possible to work out of specificity, or to abstract from such specificity to create the possibilities for new ‘design spaces’. One of the speakers (Guy Dewsbury) noted that the development and use of technology had far to go to move beyond the tendency to mis-characterise those who depend upon it, or, as he characterised the relationship, ‘designing for someone who does not exist and used by people who do exist’.