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Themes: Inclusive Design

Inclusive Design Practice Series: Can the adoption of inclusive adaptations that we have seen during Covid, such as remote working and online calls, have a sustainable impact?

Kin Ly

This blog was written as part of a new series on Inclusive Design practice, highlighting the work of the members of GDI Hub’s Inclusive Design Network. The Inclusive Design Network brings together individuals and organisations passionate about inclusive design and disability innovation. Find out more and sign up here.

Inclusive Design Practice Series: Can the adoption of inclusive adaptations that we have seen during Covid, such as remote working and online calls, have a sustainable impact? Learning from inclusive innovation for Para Sports and beyond.

We started AbilityMade to make assistive tech (AT) accessible to people with disabilities (PwD). To be sustainable, we've focused on the high impact area of paediatric orthoses. However, our technology also works with adults due to our collaborative and community focused methods, co-creating solutions that support daily life and also for participation in sport.

As we celebrate disability inclusion during the Paralympics in Tokyo and the launch of the #WeThe15 global campaign, I wanted to share a story about reaching for the stars in Boccia, when an Astrophysicist (Dave) and a top Boccia champion (Kylie) met in a warehouse makerspace!

Changing needs from Cerebral Palsy meant that Kylie was no longer able to use her Boccia ramp. The $4,000 cost for a new one was prohibitive and so she hadn’t played Boccia for 2 years, a long time in the world of competitive sport. It soon became clear to us that Kylie wasn’t the only one who needed a new Boccia ramp with no way of getting one, when a challenge to create a more affordable Boccia ramp was sent to the Boccia Australia Organising Committee. The game was on to try and make this a reality!

After connecting through AbilityMade, living in different states in Australia, Dave and Kylie used Skype to communicate and explore the needs and potential solutions for a more affordable Boccia ramp. A design that fitted Kylie’s needs made out of common conduit and 3D printed components was prototyped for $30 and posted to Kylie. It worked. It’s ultra-portable, it’s accessible enough to be made for other Boccia players and to be used as a way to introduce Boccia to school children. This example shows what is possible when you co-design with real end users and genuinely involve them in the whole process. Our roots in delivering community ‘makeathons’ with People with Disabilities taught us the power of this co-design process.

These principles of co-design are a core aspect of AbilityMade’s product development process, engaging end users and also clinicians and other healthcare professionals as appropriate. However, as I reflected on Kylie’s ramp project, I was considering whether we had applied these inclusive principles to ourselves, as an organisation. Have we made our workplace as inclusive and sustainable as our project outputs?

Personally, becoming a new parent and also recognising the neurobiological difference that's caused a lifetime of struggle during this global pandemic, has amplified my understanding of the challenges of remote working, such as isolation and a lack of support. Reframing my own personal experience of neurodiversity has given me a new lens with which to view the people and culture of AbilityMade. I value mental health more than ever before and want all AbilityMade’s crew to not just survive but thrive in the workplace. This can only happen if we support and accommodate their personal circumstances and context through empathy and supportive company policies.

This realisation has become a springboard for AbilityMade to tackle our organisational ‘debt’, a fairly typical problem for most start-ups. Establishing a ‘circle of safety’ where people can be authentic and honest allows for familial like care for our people, and ultimately helps us provide the same high level of care and sustainable impact to our projects, partners and clients.

So, is an inclusive culture important in creating a future of inclusive impact in our community? The answer is most definitely, yes!

Views expressed in this blog belong to the author and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the Global Disability Innovation Hub and its staff.

Author Biography

Kin Ly (he/him) is a first-generation immigrant, a neurodiverse person (ADHD) with invisible challenges (asthma & mental health) and a father to a lovely, but challenging one year old. He’s engaged with social enterprises in the slums of Bangalore, trained in the creation of humanitarian aid supplies for the Pacific region, and taught digital & analogue making to rural Australian kids to international university students.

He also happens to be a designer of hardware, software and most recently people and culture systems. It’s here where his diverse background of lived experiences has given him a broader scope of where to begin in the journey towards a more inclusive network of communities and individuals.