Including intellectual disability in participatory design processes: Methodological adaptations and supports

Herbert Spencer González, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso,
Vanessa Vega Córdova, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso,
Katherine Exss Cid, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso,
Marcela Jarpa Azagra, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso,
Izaskun Álvarez-Aguado, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso,

People with intellectual disabilities are relevant actors in the design processes that aim to promote their independent living. We argue that it is necessary to extend and adapt existing codesign methods in order to incorporate this community into user-centred design processes fully. This paper presents a series of methods and adaptations carried out over three years, in the context of inclusive research. Throughout the codesign process, we have identified four different phases: preparation, fieldwork, ideation and validation. Within this framework, we present adaptations and supports, which may facilitate the participation of people with intellectual disability in research and design processes. Among the central adaptations and supports, we distinguish those of content, structure and operation. This initial but comprehensive effort aims to distil transferable knowledge for facilitating the participation of people with intellectual disabilities as valuable design team members.

CCS Concepts: Human-centred computing∼Human computer interaction (HCI), User studies; People with disabilities, Participatory design, Scenario-based design

Author Keywords: inclusive research, codesign methods, intellectual disability, cognitive accessibility

ACM Reference Format:
Herbert Spencer González, Vanessa Vega Córdova, Katherine Exss Cid, Marcela Jarpa Azagra and Izaskun Álvarez-Aguado. 2020. Including intellectual disability in participatory design processes: Methodological adaptations and supports. In Proceedings of Participatory Design Conference 2020 - Participation(s) Otherwise (PDC '20: Vol. 1), June 15-20, 2020, Manizales, Colombia. ACM, New York, NY, USA,


We recognise and support the participation of non-designers in design processes by the knowledge and expertise they can contribute from their domains; from ideas, use cases to behaviours, new relationships and unanticipated scenarios, all of which informed by their experience as experts in specific fields. The case of people with disabilities is no different as we can incorporate them into the processes as experts by experience [22] in accessibility and disability issues. Currently, the definition of disability describes it as the gap between individual capacities and limitations and the demands posed by the environment [20]. This socio-ecological construct of disability, and specifically of intellectual disability (ID) highlights the importance of interaction with the built environment as responsible for making disability poignant. This point of view is especially inspiring to designers who may subvert this formerly-conceived human condition as a circumstantial outcome of interacting with the environment. Furthermore, we argue that this disability model inspires approaching the design of environments, products and services with an inclusive drive from its foundation.

The conventional characterisation of ID describes significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and adaptive behaviour, as manifested in conceptual, social, and practical skills. This disability appears before the age of 18 [30] and can manifest difficulties in reasoning, problem-solving, planning, abstract thinking, decision making, academic learning, and learning through experience. From an adaptive point of view, difficulties arise from the failure to achieve social and cultural standards for personal independence and social responsibility. With relevant supports and special aids, people can perform satisfactorily in activities of daily living; however, they can present difficulties in communication, social participation and independent living [1].

Although people who have an intellectual disability have difficulties in their functioning, it is necessary to clarify and understand that in a person, limitations usually coexist with abilities [30]. Under this premise is that the work that has been carried out is sustained, in this line, authors such as Dykens [10]; Niemiec, Shogren and Wehmeyer [21], point out the need to accentuate the potentials and strengths of the population with disabilities from the framework of positive psychology.

Advances in this line of work are related to the presence and participation of people with disabilities in research processes; although their incorporation is recent, in the last twenty years, some studies have been developed under the paradigm or of Inclusive Research (IR) [29, 31, 32]. This model shifts the role of people with intellectual disabilities from being research subjects and starts conceiving them as peers and collaborators within these processes [32, 33]. This vision challenges involved disciplines in terms of understanding people's potentials and reviewing inclusive practices developed to this day.

The design stance, in line with the IR standpoint, must then focus on the complete elimination of barriers that may prevent the incorporation of new voices in the definition and ideation of the built environment. Conversely, it becomes of paramount importance to consider the accessibility of participatory design processes as well as the methods and techniques that allow the inclusion of people with disabilities. As Hendriks, Slegers and Duysburgh point out [16], there is some progress in joint research with people with disabilities, but still, new practices and experiences remain fragmented.

Comparing the relevance of understanding different design processes and how we can achieve and express people's participation, this article aims to describe the codesign process carried out in conjunction with an Advisory Panel (AP) of adults with intellectual disabilities, focusing on the methodological adaptations and special supports developed along the process to facilitate and ensure their participation.


The theoretical framework underpinning IR proposed by Walmsley [31] [32] addresses participatory research, where people with ID engage in partnership with researchers. This type of research promotes that people with ID have an active role acting as collaborating partners throughout the process [29]. Among the most relevant aspects for carrying out IR, we highlight that the research topic must be of interest to people with disabilities, IR processes must have a collaborative character, people with ID must be able to exercise precise control over the different stages of the research and the entire process must be accessible: constructs, reports, tools, among others.

Consistent with all above and complementing this inclusive methodology for research and development, guidelines proposed by participatory design principles that describe collective decision-making processes are collected and reviewed. According to Elizabeth Sanders [23], in participatory design processes, we must accept diversity of usage of product or services due to differences in user's perceptions and cognitive abilities [22] and that their participation may vary from research subjects so cocreators, in both fields of research and design.

From the analysis of both the PD and the IR models, we can identify significant overlap in the fundamental notion of conceiving people as experts by experience. From this notion, we can positively enhance their voice and promote their role in both research and subsequent design. The main characteristic of this work is the diffuse distinction between research and design, which we may portray as a double militancy. The process starts from a question that opens a space of freedom where there is no defined problem but a way to approach and frame the initial exploration. It is from this situated exploration that the team begins to conceptualise potential solutions iteratively and incrementally. Because of this condition is that we decided to opt for the double diamond model (Figure 1), taken from an incremental and iterative approach for the operationalisation of the methodology. This model, very familiar within the design community, also allowed us to make the process itself accessible and was chosen among many others for its verisimilitude and clarity. It served as a map of our itinerary and helped us to understand what we require to do at each moment.

Figure 1.
Figure 1. Double diamond model adapted from Banathy [2] showing the identified iterative phases of participatory design.

The early incorporation of people with ID into design processes aims to make their needs, desires and priorities visible. These insights serve as guides to a joint discovery process that will seek to respond to new challenges posed by the ID community. Our work, as well as the methods, adaptations and special aids, have aimed at devising and designing technological supports that promote a more autonomous and independent way of living. In this way, we seek to transcend the classic model of research that involves people with intellectual disabilities as mere subjects of research [32], but on the contrary, every effort aims to enhance and make visible their contributions in a concrete way through concepts and designs [4]. This work philosophy aims to design activities and adaptations so that research and development processes are truly inclusive and accessible.

This paper presents the experience developed during a three-year process of inclusive research conducted by a team of researchers composed of the disciplines of design, special education, computer science, psychology and sociology; together with a group of ten adults with ID (called advisory panel or AP). After the project's approval by the bioethics and biosafety commissions, the research team formed the AP through a guest sample. The inclusion criteria for this panel was: to be over 18 years of age, to have communication skills, to participate actively in institutions that support independent living and to have a diagnosis of mild to moderate ID. The AP was made up of 10 adults with ID whose ages ranged from 23 to 55 years, 6 of which are women and 4 of them, men.

The AP has obtained an economic remuneration throughout the entire process, which was considered by them as a regular job. This team has worked on multiple projects during these three years, exploring the themes of self-determination, cognitive accessibility and independent living. In parallel, they have fully participated in the definition and creation of software applications, visual supports and other designs concepts that promote the independent living of adults with ID.

In the next section, we will describe the process, adaptations and supports developed throughout the double diamond model (Figure 1).


2.1 Training cocreators and partners

At the beginning of each R&D cycle, the research team participates in introductory work sessions whose purpose is to discuss and agree on the project's objectives and scope. The AP, acting as a significant stakeholder, develops high expectations on the project's results. These results may be novel designs with a positive impact in the ID community. In this context, acquiring research and design competencies makes more sense to the AP. These initial work sessions, led mainly by education specialists, give the AP members the appropriate tools in order to ensure their participation as experts by experience [22]. For the implementation of activities and the creation of materials, cognitive accessibility is paramount. Among the main supports necessary for the preparation of the AP, we highlight the importance of easyread material in texts and presentations, which help a better understanding of the concepts and procedures involved (Figure 2). This material is complemented with pictures and pictograms to help in the concretisation of abstract concepts. Also, we conduct preliminary fieldwork to immerse the team in real research scenarios, practising systematic observation and note-taking.

Figure 2.
Figure 2. Conceptualisation workshop on design topics. The coloured cards facilitate interaction with the moderator and help achieve consensus.

Education and design professionals prepare activities and materials respectively, whose purpose is to provide the AP with mechanisms and situations that promote the optimisation of cognitive processes that guide problem-solving skills, as posed by the cognitive modification theory [11, 16]. We focus on raising capacities such as formulating goals, devising plans and choosing effective strategies in order to achieve predefined objectives. The development of these skills will inevitably increase personal autonomy within the AP [7].


Within codesign activities, preliminary field immersion and observation are fundamental for understanding experience in a phenomenological, social, economic and technological context [26]. Field immersion strengthens the AP's role as coresearcher because, within these activities, the team perceives the value of their unique point of view. During this phase, the AP carries out many field trips where they exercise and test their capacity for systematic and detailed observation. For instance, observing and navigating through public services turned into an evaluation exercise of cognitive accessibility. Situations such as these strengthen their role as experts by experience.

3.1 Design Probes

Probes are open-ended self-reporting instruments focused on the recollection of mostly qualitative information [15]. Our approach turned probes from a logbook-like character into a journey guide assistant. So our primary concern was to support the AP's role as field researchers, which demanded more independence and autonomy from their side. Probes, in this sense, evolved into instructional and conversational instruments that helped researches navigate through space, recording their experience in a structured fashion, helping to remember the order of the procedures and the actions to be carried out. The researcher, on the other hand, collects and writes down in a structured way the information that is then easily comparable with that of the rest of the team, which also facilitates subsequent analysis. The team also noted, as an unanticipated consequence, that probes also served as props that reinforced the role of researcher, especially in public places.

The value of design probes, as aids for inclusion, lies in the careful design of the script that structures them, as well as their capacity for anticipation and contextual adaptation. Experiences also varied —or evolved— from analogue to digital prototypes. Mixed probes, that is to say, ones that incorporated physical and digital elements proved to work efficiently and provided continuity between exploration and prototype testing. (Figure 3). Serving as a step-by-step guide transformed exploratory probes into possible supports for cognitive accessibility as they sought to guarantee successful task completion.

Figure 3.
Figure 3. Mixed probe to assess the cognitive accessibility of the underground transport system.

Cognitive supports for exploration and field immersion must consider all cognitive input problems, such as blurred and confused perception, unplanned exploratory behaviour, impulsivity and non-systematic actions, spatial orientation, among others.

We iterated probe designs in conjunction with the AP, which contributed in pointing out accessibility issues (language, form, type of questions and information structure), as well as identifying different modes of expression and navigation. The most relevant contribution was the identification of the needs associated with the collection of information expressed in the probe's script. Their valuable contributions and insights, both in the script and in the evaluation rubric, led us to develop a mobile application for the evaluation of the cognitive accessibility of the city's services [25].

3.2 Debriefing and co-analysis

Completing the field research cycle, the group meets to present their findings and discuss their implications. Each researcher presents their experience (customer journey) as a step-by-step sequence and discusses the most appropriate and understandable representation of the tasks broken down into discrete steps. We can affirm that this activity constitutes the first codesign instance and expert validation simultaneously. Themes of labelling, easyread and transactional UX are the main focus of these sessions that helped in pivoting to next phase.

3.3 Group Interviews

Exploring the epistemological territory of ID counts on accessing testimonies and experiences provided by the AP and other external peers. Considering the difficulties that regular interviews pose, we devised special supports to facilitate communication and transcend barriers, such as shyness, lack of vocabulary or influence that the other preceding respondents may exert in people responses [1]. Being able to access sincere and reliable testimonies of subject's quotidian life is critical for R&D endeavours.

In order to promote honest and fluent communication, the design team conceived several physical devices to concretise and materialise the discourse of AP members, which eventually evolved to elicitation logs (Figure 4). Each board presents different sections separated by the topics covered in each session. It has private pockets in its lower part to declare concepts and ideas when preferred not to leave an oral record of the subject, thus facilitating the elicitation of more intimate and private matters which are relevant to the subject. The AP responded in each session by placing pre-written cards with concepts or providing their own according to the theme of the workshop, having the always possibility of modifying them or creating new ones through speech or writing. This activity was, as required, mediated with education professionals.

Figure 4.
Figure 4. Elicitation log. It is an accordion folder divided by questions. Interviewees can write individual concepts or paste available word cards. There is a private pocket to leave hidden concepts to the rest of the participants.

Elicitation logs facilitated the participation of adults with ID in the research, allowing a visual record of their story to be complementary to the audios and transcripts. These logbooks allowed us to visualise in a synthetic every subject's particular, felt and reflexive needs. Also, this method made it possible to homogenise the response format, reducing the communication gaps between them and facilitating later analysis for producing design implications.

Despite being very simple, they concomitantly complemented oral discourse with visual outputs, helping AP members focus on the topic in question. These instruments allowed us to gather much more subtle and valuable insight regarding their life stories in comparison to just oral interviews. It is worth mentioning that, although their role in this phase appears to be research subjects, their testimonies steer the project because it is from them that we can identify research priorities and subsequently identify design opportunities that may fulfil their needs. The AP was also an active stakeholder in the debriefing sessions.


One of the main challenges of codesign methods during this phase is to lower the natural barriers that prevent the participant's creative expression. Key goals are the facilitation of constructive and plastic expression and the production of prototypes in a stimulating and playful environment, free from pressures that intimidate and block the creativity of the participants. In this line, the importance of design kits as facilitating tools for non-designers has already been established [22]. ID adds further difficulties due to the inherent difficulty in projecting the self into the future, in themes such as long-term achievements, goals and life planning in general. Within the natural difficulty of devising original concepts for non-designers, for people with ID imagining desirable futures has proven to be a difficult mindset to achieve as it requires speculative and abstract thinking. Another critical barrier is the ease of being influenced by the ideas and opinions of other group members, which appears as a pervasive challenge.

For these reasons, we argue that narratives provide a much more inclusive starting point as they allow playful collaboration and deemphasise manual construction skills.

4.1 Ideation workshops

Ideation workshops are participatory design sessions aimed at creating scenario-based design concepts through speculation, imagination and play. The structure of this ideation technique requires a script that presents a fictional context and poses challenges to participants through a series of problems to be solved, a design toolkit for the creation of all implements necessary for completing the story successfully (Figure 5) and the required enacting of the solution by the participants.

Figure 5.
Figure 5. The ideation toolkit allows the creation of implements that enable participants to overcome the different challenges posed in the script.

In general, we can say that ideation workshops are located in the tradition of fictional inquiry (FI) since they articulate the generative tools [23] and theatricalization as an activator of interaction [19] and play [5, 23, 27]. We point out some relevant adaptations for ID such as narrative presentation is carried out at the same time as the introduction of the stage and the toolkit, both elements intimately linked to fictional settings. The narrative determines the names of stage elements and of the toolkit, which may vary from "treasure" to "alien suitcase" or "magic bag". The dramatical purpose is to materialise, in a concrete way, the presentation of all constructs and concepts.

We structured ideation workshops in the following moments: i) contextualization ii) exploration iii) dialogue iv) construction v) demonstration and vi) analysis. Before the workshop, participants prepare themselves with various theatrical relaxation techniques.

4.1.1 Contextualization. These sessions are composed of several equivalent groups of researchers (designers, educators, and AP members) who immerse themselves in a fictional environment through narrative, staging and the presence of elements that form part of the toolkit. This moment includes understanding all that surrounds a storyline, the context in which the situation happens and the challenges involved.

4.1.2 Exploration. Each team makes use of an ideation toolkit that can have different names, depending on the script. This toolkit activates the imagination and allows entering into a playful mode for building and assembling stage props (Figure 5). The ideation toolkit allows the creation of implements that enable participants to overcome the different challenges posed in the script. This moment involves going through and exploring the objects arranged in space and then choosing the ones to use collectively.

4.1.3 Dialogue. Each group should think and discuss the idea to be carried out from the problem and the chosen object. Each team must collaboratively build the artefacts, negotiating uses and affordances, exploring possibilities and discussing narrative alternatives for solving the problem or for better depicting their value [28]. This activity must take care of a playful atmosphere; considering all the elements involved, including the clothes and other props that must contribute to the mood of theatrical simulation.

4.1.4 Construction. Each group, using the different components of the toolkit, assembles new objects that respond imaginatively to the challenge posed. Team members must negotiate and demonstrate their ideas to others. During this moment, designers take on the role of facilitators to transcend constructive problems. It is also the moment when ideas compete or complement each other. In order to favour the originality of ideas, it is usually suggested to imagine how the prototyped elements can interact with stage or environmental elements (Figure 6).

Figure 6.
Figure 6. Team members are building different devices from the ideation toolkit. The goal of this activity was to create a particular communication device that could help identify a relative in a crowd.

4.1.5 Demonstration. Team members enact different solutions to the challenges using the objects devised and codesigned by the group (Figure 7). This performances build the context and activate the props revealing their functionalities as the way to interact with them. The playful atmosphere generated by these sketches accentuates a playful mood that, in turn, contributes to a creative atmosphere that allows further improvisation.

Figure 7.
Figure 7. The team presenting using artefacts and various implements created from the ideation toolkit demonstrates the resolution of dramatical challenges posed by the script.

4.1.6 Analysis. All group participants share their opinions on all concepts presented, establishing value judgements and the criteria derived from them. Along with highlighting the best concepts, participants discuss and identify the existence of barriers and facilitators present throughout the ideation workshop.

The results of these workshops include concepts of new products, interfaces, interactions and innovative relationships between people and technology. In this sense, these workshops articulate the powers of doing, telling and acting [5, 6, 9]. Among the main supports, special attention was put on the script, as it has to follow easyread principles besides including illustrations that helped to understand concepts. Specialised mediators in ID and education were necessary to facilitate understanding the challenges posed in the script. The variety of material introduced by the toolkit served the concrete materialisation of ideas but showed us that too many open-ended objects freeze participants or get them absorbed in exploration, losing sight of the challenges at hand.

4.2 Codesign workshops

Toolkits or toolboxes are a transversal thread in the ideation phases with people with ID [8, 23]. Design workshops facilitate the participation of people by providing elements for their articulation and configuration as opposed to asking participants to build things from scratch [23]. From a design approach, these assembly systems must be accessible and straightforward (Figure 8); kit pieces must present their affordance to the user with clarity. The focus while designing toolkits must be in their articulation capacity as the potential for resignification. On the one hand, they must be open enough to interpret user's intentions and provide unexpected results, but on the other, they must be simple and easy to understand; which means finding the right balance between the clarity of the semantic or iconic load of the elements and the ease and flexibility of their articulation is a must. This aspect still has a long way to go.

Figure 8.
Figure 8. Codesigning the home screen of a personal app. Different representations of the self result to be among the main elements of feature navigation. From there, the AP can speculate on new features or relationships.


Test-based validation is the most accepted and widespread way of incorporating the end-user into the design process [20]. The participation of people with ID makes this process more strict and thorough, given that weaknesses in usability and cognitive accessibility immediately stand out. Content adaptations make it necessary to validate all language and labels throughout the process in dedicated sessions.

5.1 Easyread validation sessions

These validations present phrases and labels that have previously presented problems. These sentences are morphologically broken down in parts. The AP analyzes, proposes and agrees on the meaning of each part. Synonymous or alternative expressions deserve special attention. These variations are re-articulated and read out loud for contesting the better one. The AP must agree in which alternative results in a more direct and precise understanding.

5.2 Prototype validation and user testing

Following traditional forms of validation, such as the description of use cases and thinking aloud protocol, the prototype adaptations for ID focus on the degree of abstraction or resolution. Most crude or unfinished prototypes such as wireframes have proven to be the most difficult to understand since placeholder images and simulated text is taken literally as its face value. Usability testing requires very refined and polished designs to confront with the AP, as well as fully functional prototypes. In the case of screen-based designs, the combination of finished visual design in paper prototypes has proven the best alternatives for iterating and exploring alternatives in dialogues and transactions and micro-interactions.


For the development of adequate material to work with the AP, we can distinguish aspects of content, structure and operation. It is especially important to observe a low density of information on these elements. By content, we refer to the language or labels used, spoken or visual, as well as the amount and density of information presented at each moment. By structure —or syntax— we mean hierarchy, coherence and consistency of parts as their relationship within a structured system. By operation —or functioning— we mean the explicit expectations, anticipations, interfaces and all dialogical elements that pose to the user an idea for their interpretation in the context of decision-making and/or action-taking. Operational supports allow objects to fulfil a purpose, as defined by its apparent primary function. Operational supports enable the cognitive process of learning through experience.

Outlining a preliminary heuristic, we present these findings classified by type of support. These guidelines refer to both instruments (objects) and activities (processes). See Table 1:

Table 1. Classification of adaptations by type (Own elaboration).
Design heuristic
Content - Interactions should be focused and declared in easyread syntax or plain language, depending on the context
- Redundant elements, which are often considered favourable in terms of usability, can be detrimental in the construction of a precise meaning for the user
- The pictograms must include contextual, characteristic and representative elements of the actions involved
- Iconic and pictographic language (illustrations in general) is encouraged but must move away from children's language
Structure - Interactions should anticipate their purpose transparently at the beginning
- Interactions must be sequential: simple steps lead to the articulations of complex tasks
- Avoid parallel actions or open situations that lead to ambiguity
- Modulate dialogues and interactions in short meaningful steps as they might be entry points of other dialogues within a modular architecture.
- Avoid complex hierarchies of more than three levels.
Operation - Actions must be reversible and allow user mistakes
- Actions should consider guided exploration
- Dialogues and constructs should encourage user elicitation
- Navigation must be consistent across the board all the time
- Kits should prefer the concrete to the abstract

We realise that the ideation phase, as a pivotal moment of divergence and expansion of the design solution space [2], requires creative problem-solving skills. Supporting and augmenting these individual capacities has posed a major challenge in the definition of adequate aids and supports. Successfully empowering the team to imagine and create is critical because it outlines the role of codesigner. For the AP, it means the conquest of a space where their contributions become tangible and concrete.

The different adaptations and supports made during the process had a bi-directional impact. Not only people with intellectual disabilities benefited from these modifications. Implicitly, assuming an inclusive research approach meant that researchers were now open to new forms of doing research. The research team had to learn, for instance, how to develop informed consent processes that do not violate the right of free choice, how to explore new validation methodologies, how to adapt to the times and demands of the AP and how to transform the interdisciplinary work into a valuable asset for developing new accessible adaptations, among many other new and challenging demands.


Today, the participation of people with ID in codesign processes is not questioned, furthermore identified as necessary for truly inclusive or universal design [12, 13, 14, 16, 24, 29]. Although we can justify their participation as experts by experience [17, 22], their participation may vary in the role they assume; shifting from research subjects to trainees, to advisors, to experts by experience and finally to creative partners. The type of experience that the process demands determines this fluidity of roles.

Listening to the AP genuine voice also involves careful discourse analysis, searching for opportunities and themes for future inquiry. This analysis is, paradoxically, still out of reach to the AP although real efforts have been made to return these insights in inclusive debriefing sessions. Regarding these challenges, we need more design education in areas such as cognitive facilitation, aids for participation and technological inclusion.

7.1 The challenge of inclusive ideation

A second side of the results found points to the processes of ideation and how they evolve into more inclusive processes. The interrelationship between material and spatial elements, articulated by a fictional narrative activated by the playful and exploratory action of the participants has proved [18] to be a fruitful way to detonate new ways of tackling problems and arriving at solutions that without these supports were not possible before. Object and spatial dimensions in the form of toolkits and stages make complex concepts and technologies concrete manipulable things. The challenge of designing such toolkits lies in allowing unexpected solutions to emerging from simple elements. The narrative, on the other hand, allows the insertion of these artefacts in stories of use that give them meaning and plausibility. If we add the fantastic context provided by fiction, we can activate the imagination and the state of play in the participants (Figure 9). The creative leap from known to unknown, from compression to imagination, makes us reflect on the delicate balance that we must achieve between the disciplines of education and design in order to strengthen these competencies in the AP.

Figure 9.
Figure 9. Ideation triangle: a conceptual model that describes the balance and interrelations implicit in the design of supports for the ideation. Aids in the form of scripts, toolkits and scenarios require simultaneous thinking from these three edges (Own elaboration).

Understanding the complexity of relationships that underlie the different types of support demands that different aspects should be thought through simultaneously and presented in an integrated way during codesign sessions [3]. In the same fashion, different roles and disciplines converge for developing aids and supports for including everyone. Although we elaborate supports collaboratively, we can characterise different authorities among team members. We can recognize the disciplinary leadership of education in the development of content supports, in the materials that present new concepts prepares the team to contextualize research objectives and tasks. The design discipline, on the other hand, assumes the leadership in the elaboration of the structure supports, by developing materials and toolkits that help to concretise concepts and allow to articulate new ideas in a convergent and collective way. The operating supports, on the other hand, are led by the AP that present the form that the different supports should assume so that they can conform to everyone cognitive model. The measure of success of operation supports lies in their ability to allow the successful completion of tasks that contribute to the project.

Including ID in codesign processes have proven of real value to general design knowledge. The incorporation of extreme users with special cognitive needs has resulted in new empirical knowledge that scales to other audiences through the optics of universal design. Codesigning with people with diverse cognitive abilities poses challenges for researchers and designers, among these challenges we note that traditional methods and procedures may not fit the needs of everyone [23]. This inclusive way of creating design solutions contrasts the traditional approach for addressing cognitive accessibility which tends to adapt and repair existing situations turning them into more accessible ones, in a refactoring fashion. Thinking the accessibility of products, environments and services from the very beginning is posed as a new demand in the multidisciplinary domain of universal design.


This research is part of the FONDECYT Regular project Nº 1190789 "Nuevos desafíos para la educación en Chile: Apoyos a la vida independiente de adultos con discapacidad intelectual o del desarrollo".


This project has the bioethical consent of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso as well as the authorization of all participants to use their photographs in academic publications.


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