Empathic design research strategies: Designing for, with and by people with disabilities

Deana McDonagh, Joyce Thomas, Lydia Khuri, Susann Heft Sears, Feniosky Peña-Mora

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Demographics are shifting. People are living longer and are expecting a higher quality of life than previous generations. Over a typical lifespan we will develop a range of disabilities, which are no longer perceived as a barrier to having a good quality of life. User expectation of products is growing which suggests a balanced approach to functionality is more important than ever. Rather than designing for the users, we need to be designing intimately with them to ensure that more intuitive design outcomes are generated. Ideally we hope to see people with disabilities designing for the wider population, which will push this model more towards design by. Empathic design research is a strategy that relies on the end user being an active partner in the designing process, a co-creator of knowledge. The concepts of empathy, empathic horizon, and the material landscape are illustrated through the discussion of a pilot design course within a university context. Using this approach, students with physical (visible) disabilities and product design students worked together designing everyday products. This empathic approach highlights research strategies that can support more effective design outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbook of Research on Trends in Product Design and Development
Subtitle of host publicationTechnological and Organizational Perspectives
PublisherIGI Global
Number of pages22
ISBN (Print)9781615206179
StatePublished - 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Business, Management and Accounting


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