The use of technology, both new and well established, combined with a participatory approach to design might represent an important way to embrace diversity. This workshop is aimed at establishing a discussion forum on assessing the challenges in design for disability, neurodiversity and more in general for people with special needs by applying participatory design.

The workshop will address the theme “Technology for the Common Good” of Communities & Technologies 2017 by focusing on technologies and participatory design methods for embracing diversity. With diversity the organizers refer to the variety of human differences, caused either by physical impairment, cognitive impairment, chronic diseases, or the so-called neurodiversity.  

Designing for usability, accessibility and inclusion not only means focusing on user interfaces and ergonomic aspects but also consider factors such as acceptability and appropriation. Bodily, cognitive, and emotional appropriation should be regarded as fundamental to the success of a design process that is truly open to the diversity of users.

To identify the right stakeholders is of primary importance for correctly informing the design process and to support the culture of participation in everyday life. However, this can be quite hard especially in cases where multiple individuals and organizations are involved. In many cases the end users, their family members, homecare caregivers, healthcare professionals, nursing homes, and organizations have to collaborate towards a common goal.

In such perspective, a participatory approach to design may be of great help to implement usable, accessible, and inclusive technological solutions that put the end users and their needs at the center. Still it is complicated to decide under which circumstances a design process can be considered participative and/or has participatory results (for example when users participate in the design but don’t recognize in the results their contribution).

Moreover, new technologies, recent evolution of virtual and augmented reality, and Internet of Things allow to design more flexible and advanced interaction tools and systems while at the same time may raise new challenges related to the difficulties of use that impairments can imply.


The workshop will provide a forum to discuss, among others, the following research questions, regarding participatory projects involving people with special needs:

  • how to identify the right stakeholders?
  • when is the right time/place for involving people with disability and/or neurodiversity in participatory design projects?
  • how to foster motivation for participation?
  • what are the most suitable technologies to be used (e.g. mobile devices, Internet of Things, virtual reality, augmented reality);
  • the role of professionals in the design and how to exploit Human Work Interaction Design methods in participatory projects;
  • End-User Development methods and techniques for empowerment of people with disability and/or neurodiversity.


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