Response to Graham Pullin’s “Design Meets Disability”

Thinking of design as depending largely on constraints – as quoted in Pullin’s chapter, was a very negative perspective to look at it through.  Though I consider myself to be a person with a tendency to view things rather negatively, surprisingly, I tend to think of design through all the possibilities that it can open. This negative way, however, implies that all of us are ‘disabled’ in a way and that good design helps us navigate through life with more simplicity and ease.

Yet I understand the point Pullin was making – the framework of thinking about design through constraints illuminates the border between design for functionality and design for visual pleasure.  This, however, poses the questions of balance and how exactly to maintain it without compromising one or the other. But, as Pullin further develops, designing for actual disabilities, can have immense formative factors on how the disability is perceived by the society in the first place. Quite a big responsibility, isn’t it?

What, however, strongly resonated with me was an implication of capitalism and how some of the benefits of modern research in design cannot be applied to the research in design for disabilities – simply because it would not be financially profitable as not as many people would buy it.

It reminded of a certain group of pharmaceuticals called ‘orphan drugs’ – drugs for diseases, that however, are not commercially developed and sold as companies are concerned about the level of profitability. Therefore, people with real conditions cannot get them treated because their condition is rare, and there would simply not be enough demand on the market to motivate the companies to satisfy it.

Though this is stretching it a little too far, the fact that designing for a disability is affected by such twisted forces of capitalism too, really makes me question the society as a whole – and what it is able to sacrifice in order to make a profit. There is so much potential, as Pullin vividly discusses, to destigmatize disabilities and integrate people of all needs through design. Yet the development and research of such are severely limited by ridiculous constraints of capitalism.

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