Design Careers and Students with Disabilities

Brianna Blaser

Opportunities abound for individuals with disabilities in design fields. However, people with disabilities are underrepresented in the design professions. DO-IT is trying to change this situation. With funding from the Institute for Human Centered Design, DO-IT sponsored a two-day workshop as a part of the pilot project, AccessDesign that was held in Seattle this past summer.

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

During the first day of the workshop, held on the University of Washington campus in Seattle, 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 and informational interviews with professionals in various design fields, students toured the facility and saw several demonstrations of technology being used in architecture firms today. The computer modeling demonstration, model shop, materials library, and graphic design department provided inspiration for the students as they thought about their own careers.

The ultimate goal of AccessDesign is to broaden the participation in design fields to include more individuals with disabilities and to enhance these fields with the talents and perspectives of this underrepresented group.