Design for Empowerment, the Stigma-Free Design Toolkit
Designing assistive devices is not only clinically and technically demanding, it can also be a very intimate and emotionally sensitive task. Many of them have been developed by medical and engineering experts, for whom ergonomic and physiological considerations are paramount. Although these product need to function properly on a technical and ergonomic level, scant attention is given to emotional aspects, such as social stress, stigma and shame. Even when users feel perfectly at ease and self-reliant with their assistive device, all too often, the obvious or subtle remarks of bystanders, fueled by culturally embedded product stereotypes, keep challenging these users .
This paper addresses the topic of product-related stigma (PRS), social disapproval associated with the use of a particular product, and introduces a stigma-free design toolkit for designers and development teams. The toolkit focusses on the emotional and social challenges associated with the conception of stigma-sensitive assistive devices. The stigma-free design toolkit contains two tools that can be used in sequence or individually. The PAMS (Product Appraisal Model for Stigma) ‘unveils’ stigma pitfalls and social conflicts between users of stigma-sensitive products and their surroundings. The PIMS (Product Intervention Model for Stigma) is a set of 14 stigma-alleviating design interventions.
The model was first introduced in 2014 and has been improved through its application in education and research projects. After 5 years of development the stigma-free design toolkit reportedly assisted to increase empathy with end-users, inspire designers, alleviate the effects of product-related stigma and increase user-product attachment, user empowerment and collective well-being.
KeywordsAssistive devices Product semantics Inclusive design
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