Design meets Disability
Published on 10 June 2021
Studio Ordinary is a meeting of design research and disability studies, of creative and critical thinking.
Hands of X at Cubitts' Kings X eyewear shop, London (images courtesy of Studio Ordinary)
Studio Ordinary was co-founded in 2019 by seven disabled and nondisabled researchers across DJCAD, Education & Social Work and Humanities, including Graham Pullin, Professor of Design and Disability, and Fiona Kumari Campbell, Professor of Disability and Ableism Studies.
'Super Normal Design for Extra Ordinary Bodies' design manifesto
This manifesto is itself a clashing together of Rosemarie Garland-Thomson's critical disability studies and Naoto Fukasawa and Jasper Morrison's writings on industrial design. It also builds on both Pullin's Design meets disability (2009, The MIT Press), and Campbell's Contours of Ableism (2009, Palgrave Macmillan), each of which changed the perspectives from which design and disability were viewed.
This ethos is embodied in EPSRC-funded Hands of X, in which Pullin and Andrew Cook explored materials for prosthetic hands with mentors Eddie Small and Corinne Hutton. A palette of everyday materials was chosen for its qualities and familiarity – materials that neither attempted to imitate human skin nor alluded to super-human powers. A service was prototyped in Cubitts, a London eyewear retailer, in which wearers browsed and chose materials for their own hand, and we reflected with them on the sense of ownership that this engendered.
Following an exhibit at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Museum in New York, in 2019 an exhibition 'Hands of X: design meets disability' at the V&A Dundee was co-created with the museum's curatorial team and mentors Andrew Gannon and Caitlin McMullan.
Of around 140,000 visitors, 7,000 contributed their experience and imagination to their own (actual or imagined) choice of prosthetic hand and the reasons behind this choice. This notion of choice, identity and shared decision-making has been taken in a Senior fellowship with The Healthcare Improvement Studies Institute.
Studio Ordinary’s manifesto was disseminated as a publication during the exhibition. The first major project under the Studio Ordinary name is 'Imagining Technologies for Disability Futures', a Wellcome Trust funded collaboration that will bring humanities-, disability-, and design-led perspectives to augmentative communication. In an area more usually clinically and technically framed, we will be prototyping alternative futures with our mentors. Also in Studio Ordinary, Teodor Mladenov, Senior Lecturer in Education & Social Work, is researching and critiquing contemporary disability policy and Katie Brown's PhD is relating Super Normal design to hearing aids.
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