Eastern Michigan University

Reframing Disability

How do we often conceptualize disability?

Disability is often seen as a deficiency or abnormality. The "problem" resides within the individual with the disability. The individual is the focus of the remedy.

How could we reframe disability?

Disability could be seen as just a difference. The "problem" is primarily derived from the interaction between the individual and society. The environment becomes the focus of the remedy.

Pathological / Individual

Problem is within the individual
The individual is the focus of intervention
The intervention agent is the professional

Social / Cultural

Problem is from interaction between individual and society
The environment is the primary focus of intervention
Intervention agents can be anyone

How do we respond to disability?

Access issues are the individual's problem to solve. Access is achieved through accommodations and retrofits that are retroactive, separate, and consumable.

How could we respond differently?

Access issues become the designer's problem to solve. Environments are designed to the greatest extent possible to be usable by all. The accommodations become proactive, inclusive, and sustainable.


Accommodations are re-applied each time a new individual enters the environment
Individual's problem to solve
Accommodations modifications

Inclusive Design

Environments are designed to be inclusive, requiring little continual alteration
Designer's problem to solve
Environments are designed to be usable by all (greatest extent possible)

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