Principles for Accessibility Studies

Brightly coloured graphic figures of all sizes and colours merged together. Objects should not just be useful; they should be intrinsically meaningful both philosophically and emotionally. In his paper, Gian Maria Greco discusses the move from separate approaches based on disability to universal approaches. His Principles for Accessibility Studies are a useful take-away for designers and lead to co-design thinking. 

Greco follows on from the philosophical work of Rob Imrie and his discussions on the quest for universality. The title of the paper is, Accessibility Studies: Abuses, Misuses and the Method of Poietic DesignGreco concludes the article with a list of principles for design:

    1. The Principal of Universality: accessibility concerns all, not exclusively specific groups or individuals.
    2. The Principle of Personalisation: one size does not fit all. The design should be able to respond to the specificities of individual users.
    3. The Principle of User-centrality: design should focus on users and their specificities.
    4. The Principle of Epistemic Inclusivity: users and other stakeholders, including experts, are bearers of valuable knowledge for the design of artefacts.
    5. The Principle of Participation: design should be carried out through the active participation of the stakeholders involved.
    6. The Principle of Pro-activism: accessibility should be addressed ex-ante, not ex-post.

From the abstract

Accessibility has become increasingly discussed in a range of fields, producing a large number of new ideas, theories, and innovations that have proven to be quite fruitful. A closer look shows that different fields have experienced fundamental changes. There has been a shift from specific accounts to a universalist account of access, a shift from maker-centred to user-centred approaches, and a shift from reactive to proactive approaches.

Through these processes, accessibility has birthed new areas within those fields, that have been gradually converging to constitute the wider field of accessibility studies. The nature and position of accessibility studies has now become a central topic. This ongoing progression of conceptual clarification may bear some misunderstanding and misinterpretations along the way.

In the paper, I first briefly review the principal traits of the process of formation of accessibility studies. Then I address some possible misconceptions; and finally, introduce a first, very general sketch of poietic design, a method proper to accessibility studies.

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