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The Stigma Around Disability and Universal design

Last updated on April 30, 2020

The Stigma Around Disability and Universal design

In going about this class the thing that has stood out to me the most is the way that intellectuals view people with disabilities. This class had me question whether people with disabilities even want to be “normal”. I have not started to ponder whether it is right to assume that people who lose their arms even want a new prosthetic arm. This really interested me because it was a completely new way of thinking and I think that the stigma around people with disabilities in today’s world is that they need to be “fixed”, but what if there is nothing wrong with them at all. 

These concepts really come into play when thinking about universal design. Universal design is defined by Universal Design.com as “the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability.” In thinking about universal design quite a bit, it becomes very clear to me that while universal design is starting to move forward, it is not nearly where it should be. In the ideal world, almost every product should be made using universal design, the reason for this is that most products today are designed today to specifically target the people who are “normal”, which I think in itself is assuming that everyone wants to be this “normal” body. This theory is called the “glitch theory”, glitch theory is essentially saying that there’s some beauty in something not working the way it is supposed to or “glitching”. Glitch theory is all about finding the beauty in something working in a different way then it is supposed to, and instead of trying to fix it trying to work with it. I think glitch theory is a great way to think about disability as it allows people with disabilities to not just be defined by their disability. 

Universal design needs to become the norm for all design practices because it really is the only way to allow products across the world to be useful for all types of people. I think it is important for the world to adapt in order to make life easier for everyone, not just the stereotypical person. When thinking about universal design, and possible ideas I think using glitch theory is crucial because it opens up a new viewpoint that allows people to see the beauty in things not working the way they are supposed to, and this includes the human body. As the world moves forward I really hope that universal design and the stigma around people with disabilities do as well.

-Flynn Martin, 2021

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