What does it mean to be a difference-centered designer?
I wouldn’t consider myself an expert. Like you, I have one story, one unique perspective and I’m learning.
I’m learning that you don’t have to understand the jargon to be a designer even though I’ve been surprising myself lately plucking words from my vocabulary like user experience, prototype, persona.
The jargon is even in the name of our organization “Creative Users” – not because we were savvy designers but because, as disabled artists, we wanted to challenge the jargon our friends were using in the arena of Inclusive Design Research that refers to disabled people as “extreme users”.
Years before we knew there was such a thing as ‘design thinking’, we knew that Deaf and disabled artists are inherently lifehackers, innovators, tinkerers and design thinkers.
When we’re creating accessible communities, organizations and experiences in the arts, difference-centered design means putting disability at the center of our imaginations not as part of a problem but as a creative guide to building better solutions.
It means throwing away the belief that you have the answer and instead learning how to ask questions.
It means listening closely to stories of interdependence, joy, love, pride as well as to stories of ableism, audism, racism, transphobia and learning how to recognize yourself in those stories.
It means believing that, when we design not for but with disability, we move closer to a vision of an inclusive culture. We believe, with the right tools and with the right framework, anyone – even you – can do it.