AccessDesign: A Promising Practice for Students with Disabilities Exploring Design Careers

Date Updated

With funding from the Institute for Human Centered Design, the DO-IT Center at the University of Washington sponsored a two-day workshop as a part of a pilot project called Access to the Design Professions for People with Disabilities (AccessDesign). The goal of AccessDesign is to increase the pipeline of design professionals with disabilities by expanding the recruitment and support of students with disabilities into postsecondary design education and increase the engagement of professionals in the field.

During the workshop, students with disabilities, design educators, and professionals engaged in a series of interactive sessions. Some of the design fields represented included: apparel design, architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, industrial design, informatics, interior design, graphic design, and lighting design.

During the first day of the workshop, held on the University of Washington campus, high school and college students with disabilities learned about academic programs in design fields at the UW and other local institutions. Over the course of the day, students met with advisors and faculty in design fields, talked to current students and recent graduates of design programs, learned about other campus resources, and participated in a hands-on design activity to learn about accessibility.

The second day of the workshop was held at an architecture firm where students had the opportunity to learn more about careers in design fields. In addition to a panel presentation of professionals from a variety of backgrounds and informational interviews with professionals in various design fields, students toured the facility and saw several demonstrations of technology currently being used in architecture firms.

At the end of the program, students were invited to join both the Institute for Human Centered Design’s Access to Design Professions One-on-One E-mentoring Program and DO-IT’s AccessSTEM e-mentoring community for students with disabilities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Professionals who participated were encouraged to continue their participation by joining one of DO-IT’s Communities of Practice.

The AccessDesign pilot project is considered a promising practice for providing a unique opportunity designed to expose students with disabilities to various design professions, educate them about available accommodations, provide them with information about the education and degree requirements, and encourage them to consider a design field as a career option.

For more information on AccessDesign consult the following DO-IT Knowledge Base articles:

AccessDesign has been developed through a partnership between The Alliance for Students with Disabilities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (AccessSTEM, Research in Disabilities Education award #HRD-0833504) >and Access to Design Professions, Institute for Human Centered Design, (IHCD) Boston, MA and funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).