We want to create an environment for better designed solutions for the autism community
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.
David’s brother Paul was diagnosed with severe autism when he was 2 years old. 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.
The Kickstarter Campaign
In April 2016, we launched a two-week campaign on Kickstarter to raise funds for our community-building efforts. These funds will go towards covering the costs of each event: food, materials, transportation for speakers and for ourselves. We were delighted to reach our goals, and added a stretch goal which allowed us to add Washington D.C. as the fourth city on our itinerary.