Including people with intellectual disability in co-design

Picture of a large family looking jubilant outside their housePeople with intellectual disability are often left out 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. 

The literature 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 but is not easily adapted to suit people with intellectual disability. There is an obvious 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

Intellectual disability and social inclusion

people walking down a wide pedestrian zone. Intellectual disability and social inclusion.Local government authorities are exactly that – local. They are the tier of government closest to the everyday lives of people. Local neighbourhoods are where people feel either socially included or not. People with intellectual disability are much more likely to feel socially excluded. A research project undertaken by the University of Technology (UTS) took a novel approach to the issue.

To begin, they recruited researchers with intellectual disability to participate in all aspects of designing and carrying out the research. This was a key step for informing the research process. The purpose of the study was to understand the experiences of people with intellectual disability in their local community. 

They found that people with intellectual disability have valuable information to share. However, their voices are unheard and consequently their needs not understood.The discussion starter was the question, “What would you do if you were boss of your local council?” The answers were that they want their council to:

      • Provide accessible information in a range of formats about what is happening in the community and how to participate.

      • Provide someone to speak to – or even better, face to face contact.

      • Employ people with intellectual disability.

      • Help them access better transport and find ways to make them feel safer and more welcome. 

      • Improve public toilets and offer quiet spaces at noisy, busy events. 

A framework for change

The researchers adopted the framework the WHO Age Friendly Cities program. which is pitched to community life at the local level. This is a good framework for councils to use with people with intellectual disability as well as older people.

WHO age friendly logo of 8 petals showing the 8 domains of life.
WHO 8 Domains Framework

Participants wanted to know what is available and how to get around the community. They also wanted respectful interactions with others in the community and said familiar faces and places were important.

These findings have some important information for councils and their social policy. Grouping people with intellectual disability under the generic term “people with disability” risks leaving them out. Councils should adapt communication and engagement strategies to suit people with intellectual disability. 

The title of the article is, Opportunities to support social inclusion for people with intellectual disability at a local level. Published in the Design for All India Newsletter. It is based on a published study, If I Was the Boss of My Local Government: Perspectives of People with Intellectual Disabilities on Improving Inclusion. The author is Dr Phillippa Carnemolla who is also a CUDA board member. This is a comprehensive article with recommendations for local government. 

Accessibility Toolbar