Including people with intellectual disability in co-design

Picture of a large family looking jubilant outside their housePeople with intellectual disability are rarely considered when it comes to design. Whether it’s built or digital environments, services or products, this group is often overlooked. However, with co-design methods, people with intellectual disability could and should be included. But, this is still a new idea and there is very little literature or case studies on working with this group. This is the finding from a recent literature review.

The literature review was carried out in the context of housing design. The review found the following gaps in knowledge:

    • General lack of literature on co-designing with people with an intellectual disability
    • No specific literature encapsulating the co-design process, in the context of intellectual disability, and housing
    • No frameworks or benchmarks on co-design with people with disability
    • Lack of evaluation of the design outcomes of co-design process
    • Lack of research that can assist parents plan for their ageing children. 

Housing design for people with physical disabilities has evolved over time and is not easily adapted to suit people with intellectual disability. There is also a need to consider people with both intellectual and physical disability. 

The title of the article is, Co-designing in Australia housing for people with intellectual disability: an integrative literature review“. You can download the web version or the PDF version

Related work: A research project undertaken by the University of Technology (UTS) recruited researchers with intellectual disability to participate in all aspects of designing and carrying out social inclusion research. This was a key step for informing the research process. 


Background: This paper provides an evidence base for practice in Australia from an integrative literature review of research on co-designing housing with people with an intellectual disability. The study asks: what methods and outcomes have been reported from including people with an intellectual disability in the co-design of their housing?

Method: The integrative review framework described by Whitemore and Knafl (2005) was used to analyse the literature.

Results: The literature searches yielded 16 articles after applying inclusion and exclusion criteria. Important gaps in the literature were found relating to: co-designing with people with an intellectual disability; the co-designing of housing with people with an intellectual disability; specific frameworks or benchmarks for co-designing with people with an intellectual disability; processes on use of proxies; and on design outcomes.

Conclusions: Considerable work is required to explore and evaluate co-design processes in the design of housing with adults with intellectual disabilities, as well as how the outcomes of these processes are evaluated.