Dare to Care: Compassionate Design
Physical ability is an important, and sometimes overlooked, dimension of diversity. As a social construct, it often seems that we exclude disabled persons because of a medical condition or diagnosis of disability, not realizing that we have actually disabled them by not making everyday activities accessible. Developing effective means of confronting the undesirable outcomes brought forth by the social divisions created by exclusion is the primary focus of this course.
There are 40 million individuals in America with at least one disability, and in the current world of design, these differences are often overlooked. How do we as designers empower people of diverse physical abilities and provide them with means of self-expression? By challenging students to provide creative solutions to problems encountered by the disabled, and focusing on the design process as a tangible means of engagement, I hope to empower students with tools useful in closing the divide between people with different ability levels.
In Compassionate Design, students from any prospective major are invited to explore the engineering design process by examining the needs of persons with disabilities. Through invited guests, students will have the opportunity to directly engage people with different types of disabilities as a foundation to design products that address problems of motion and mobility, vision, speech and hearing. For example, in class, students will interview people who are deaf, blind, have cerebral palsy, or other disabling conditions. Students will then be asked, using the design tools they have been exposed to as part of the seminar, to design a particular component or device that enhances the quality of life for that user or users with similar limitations.
Presentation skills are taught and emphasized as students will convey their designs to the class and instructors. Students will complete this seminar with a compassionate view toward design for the disabled, they will acquire a set of design tools that they can use to empower themselves and others in whatever direction they choose to go, and they will have increased confidence and abilities in presenting in front of an audience.