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Characterization of Disability Within Design Process Open Access


Other title
Non-human Actors
Actor Network Theory
Human Actors
Design Process
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Biswas, Afrin Anowar
Supervisor and department
Strickfaden, Megan (Human Ecology)
Examining committee member and department
Terzin, Tomislav (Biology)
Takach, Bonnie Sadler (Art & Design)
Bissonnette, Anne (Human Ecology)
Department of Human Ecology
Textile & Clothing
Date accepted
Graduation date
Master of Arts
Degree level
It is often assumed during product design that the product will be used by individuals who have two working eyes, ears, legs, feet, hands in addition to the ability to mentally process information in a very coherent way. Such assumptions during the design process negate the experiences of people with disabilities who have developed various useful strategies to cope with barriers and hazards they encounter everyday. The experiences and expertise of people with disabilities are very important in evaluating existing products and places as well as news designs in developments. One such instance where designers appreciated the experiences and opinions of people with disabilities and included them in the design process is the renovation of the Premier’s Council (PC) office space. Retrospective case study of the design process for PC office renovation is highlighted in this study to understand how disability is characterized in different ways and then designed into a physical space. The Premier’s Council is located in Edmonton, Alberta and was designed by architect Ron Wickman. The Council office embodies disability in overt ways through physical cues that tell a story of different kinds of disability. More interesting, however, is how the designer and design team got to the finished product through their understanding and characterization of the concept of disability. Although human actors (architect, clients, etc.) drove the process, it was the non-human actors (e.g., guidelines, policies and other objects) that became highly significant. The results of the study unravel an immensely complex heterogeneous network of human and non-human actors that contributes towards understanding how disability is situated in design process.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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