In a nutshell
Even though the conversation within autism has been dominated for the longest time by therapies and medical research, designers and makers around the world today are challenging the notion that treatment and therapy are the only solutions for the autism community. Instead, they are creating products and environments that allow autistic individuals to be comfortable and play to their strengths. Such as video games that adapt to an autistic player’s ability in real time. An assessment framework for autism-friendly environments. Or sensory-friendly apparel.
We are bringing together all these creators with a series of meetups, starting with SF in August 2016.
We want to foster knowledge sharing and attract all who are excited to tackle the question: can we synthesize everyone’s combined knowledge to create an environment for better designed solutions for the autism community? Can autism-friendly design stand on its own as a discipline?
This meetup series will help us build the community from the ground up, with an eye towards holding a larger one-day summit in March 2017. We’re taking our efforts on the road, in 3 cities: San Francisco, Minneapolis, and New York City, starting out on the West Coast with SF in August 2016. Back us to stay updated on topics and schedule, or sign up for our mailing list at tinyletter.com/designingforautism!
David’s brother Paul was diagnosed with severe autism when he was 2 years old, prompting David to dedicate his career to designing for autistic individuals. We quickly realized how hard it was to find any shared knowledge or guidelines to help us create the best solutions.
Ever since he learned that his younger brother Paul might not ever speak, David has been looking for innovative ways to communicate with him. While he’d worked as an interaction designer for a while, he began to explore designing for autism after seeing Paul learn to use an iPad application to help him communicate. He hoped to someday create a better product that could help people like Paul communicate. Dedicating his research to autism, David found himself frustrated with the complexity of the issue.
Kohzy saw these struggles firsthand. Having had a close relative who had sustained early brain trauma, Kohzy could relate to many of David’s experiences. After yet another late-night conversation around one of David’s projects, the two of us finally wondered: can these questions be answered by bringing together people who have had deep experience designing for the autistic community? Thus, the idea for building a community around designing for autism was born.
When Paul was diagnosed in 1992, the rate of autism diagnosis in the United States was 1 in 5,000. Today, it is 1 in 68, and about 25 percent are nonverbal. This is a massive population that could benefit from purpose-built solutions that enhance their comfort and empower them to play to their strengths.
What this series is about
Building a knowledge-sharing community around designing for autism, one city at a time.
After some great conversations with people from different places who have been designing in the space of autism, we were inspired and wanted to create a space for them to share their learnings and insights. We want to start building the community through a series of meetups, with the goal of having a larger summit in early 2017.
Each meetup will begin with one speaker touching on a single topic within the space. We will then invite all participants to engage in a conversation about the practice.
The meetups will be free and open to all interested in the topic.
Where will we be?
A meetup in SF, Minneapolis, NYC, in that order.
We’ve picked three cities where we’ve found communities that are excited about this topic.
- San Francisco - San Francisco is currently a hotbed for innovation and technology, with many interesting developments in the space of assistive tech and inclusive design!
- Minneapolis - A city where great strides are being taken in autism services (and as a major city in David’s home state), Minneapolis holds a special place in our hearts.
- New York - As the host city of many headquarters of autism organizations, NYC is the perfect city to bring together experts in the field.
Want us to come to your city? Perhaps, if we exceed our funding goals!
What are you funding?
The costs of hosting each meetup (food, drinks and such), plus some travel expenses.
Some funds will go towards paying for a Meetup subscription. Each meetup will have refreshments, and we’ll need to cover our travel costs as well as logistics. We’ll have speakers and participants come from within each of the three host cities, so funds will not be required for their transportation. We aim to be fully transparent by providing a breakdown of how your contributions were allocated, after the meetup series.
We want to encourage the formation of designing for autism as its own discipline.
Even though the conversation within autism has been dominated for the longest time by therapies and medical research, designers and makers around the world today are challenging the notion that treatment and therapy are the only solutions for the autism community. Instead of emphasizing how to train autistic people to be like us, we are now exploring how to create things that empower them to be comfortable in their world, and play to their strengths.
This is a big opportunity to bring together people who have been designing everything beyond therapies — architecture and environments, hardware, software, apparel, graphic communication — to share what they have learned and how they’ve crafted a process unique to this particular audience. This meetup series is the first step towards organizing a larger summit to bring together designers who have created products and services for the autistic community to share their learnings. This summit would take place in March 2017. We hope that by initiating knowledge sharing in this area that it will grow into something bigger and support new entrants into the field.
Can a whole discipline be established around designing for the autistic community? While organizing events would be a great start, what really excites us is the idea of seeing participants take the connections they’ve developed and learnings they’ve exchanged, and push this discipline further.
Risks and challenges
There are two main risks we face. First, we risk not being able to find a host in each of these three cities: that would require us to pay for a venue. However, we’ve picked the cities in which we are most confident of finding hosts based on our contacts and based on interest in the topic. The potential costs of paying for a venue are also considered in our campaign funding target.
The second risk is not being able to attract enough interest in attending these meetups. This might be because the topic we’re addressing is not compelling enough. We plan on mitigating this risk as much as possible by selecting a very convenient location, and working with the speakers to ensure that the topic is interesting.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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