Human (in) dignity and the challenges of universalising design

On March 27th, 2014, Rob Imrie is giving a key note paper at the  7th Cambridge University Workshop on Universal Access and Assistive Technologies. The paper notes that design and cognate, progressive, social movements, such as design for all and inclusive design, are important moral and political interventions in a world in which designed artefacts and objects rarely work well for much of the world’s populace. These social movements may be understood as confronting, and reacting against, the human indignities engendered by design that may be insensitive to bodily and sensory differences. There are, however, significant challenges ahead in relation to the crafting of the material world in ways whereby it can facilitate, rather than denude, the dignity of people in their everyday lives. In this paper, I consider these challenges in relation to disability and design, and argue that the various, often fragmented, movements for universal/inclusive design ought to be in the vanguard of (a). Seeking to make the case fro the socialisation of design as a pre-requisite for its universal deployment and delivery; and, (b). Developing ‘design for all’ as an explicit ethical and political project and movement. I reflect on what both might entail and how far they are a practical possibility.