Design Out Racism Now | A Statement from IHCD

Submitted by anoopa on Fri, 07/17/2020 - 20:15

The time for equity and justice for Black Americans is tragically overdue.  We must speak the truth about systemic racism in the United States and act to end it. The Institute for Human Centered Design (IHCD) stands in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and is committed to action. 

The issues at the forefront today of policing and health disparities are also symptoms of other foundational issues like housing, education, employment, and environmental conditions related to safe water and air. IHCD is committed to help drive change across the board of these issues and others that result in inequity. The human-made and designed context for Black lives in America needs to be addressed and fixed. 

IHCD’s mission is to foster and practice design that includes everyone, that anticipates the diversity of ability, age, culture, and race as inherent to the human condition. As leaders in the global Inclusive/Universal Design movement we are actively taking steps to reframe the vision of Inclusive/Universal Design to focus on the sharp inequity within society and in our relationship to the planet. At the core of it is our strong advocacy and view that design that anticipates diversity and includes everyone is a civil and human right. 

Designers, builder, creators, and innovators must work directly with people with lived expertise if we are going to replace existing structures with places, policies, technology and services that support believe to thrive. We cannot assume or intuit what will work. As one of our board members reminds us “Racist attitudes destroy lives. Respectful attitudes sustain lives.”

IHCD will apply our method of engaging “user/experts,” men, women, and youth with lived experience of discrimination and being left out who know what works. This participatory research method is central to IHCD’s inclusion work, going forward we will be leveraging our deep experience of participatory research to help to support Black Lives Matter and to advance anti-racism through design. 

Below is a list of areas that we have currently been working on and are going to further prioritize cultural and racial inequality. We look forward to working together as a partner to design out racism and advance anti-racism.

Immediate Priorities

  • IHCD is wrapping up a project to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on July 26th. The Changing Reality of Disability in America 2020 uses quantitative and qualitative research to tell the story of the potent link between inequality of healthcare, environment and institutional structures of American life and the prevalence and patterns of disability today. IHCD will issue a report with statistical documentation and a 20-minute documentary.
  • Recruitment of more diverse user/experts. 

Our user/expert database of over 500 people has too few people from the Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities. We will reach out to community groups to partner with us to recruit these paid experts.

  • The Black Lives Matter movement calls for an investment in new services.  

The call is clear to replace systemic racism with needed services and supports. IHCD will reach out to state and city governments as well as to healthcare and educational institutions to help with methods to achieve inclusive service design through participatory contextual inquiry research followed by iterative testing of solutions - learn from real people in real environments. 

IHCD’s Continued Efforts & Advocacy

  • Build new bridges to long-time collaborators: 
    • Mel King at the Mel King Institute at MIT and Ted Landsmark at Northeastern’s Dukakis Center for Urban & Regional Policy as well as to the NAACP and the Urban League to advocate with them and partner with them by offer our expertise on creating inclusive housing, transit, public realm and learning and work spaces.
  • IHCD is leading the development of a new webcast series on Inclusive Strategies for Remote Learning.  The risk for inequity with remote learning is extreme and needs a response now to prevent it. 
    • Our partners include the Association of Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD), OCAD University in Toronto, the MGH School of Health Professions, and the Boston Architectural College, the nation’s most diverse design school outside of traditional black colleges. Additional partners are being recruited. 
    • We will focus our efforts on community colleges in particular as a primary route to college for many Black people and people of color. 
  • IHCD has been trying to influence Boston’s innovation economy to take a bold step to create a model of inclusive participatory innovation to help overcome the disparities in the innovation economy. We are looking for support and partners on this effort to diversify the innovation process and economy.
    • We have a three-part goal:
      • Infuse inclusive design as a value commitment, 
      • Foster problem identification for the hardest problems by engaging the people living them, 
      • Promote iterative testing of solutions with representative end users.