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Institute for Design and Disability


Good design enables, bad design disables


A non-profit-making foundation contributing to the participation of people with disabilities through design


Design is a pervasive factor in the lives of people with disabilities.  It determines their immediate environment, the clothes they can wear, the tools they can use, the work they can undertake, the buildings they can enter and the forms of transport they can avail of.  Deficiencies in industrial design and the built environment are widespread and press heaviest on old people and people who are disabled in various ways.


Until comparatively recently, the tendency was to view people with physical and sensory disabilities as dependent on others: today the emphasis is on designing environments and products that help integrate people into the community and enable them to live independently.  People with disabilities represent between ten and twenty per cent of the population, and recognition of their needs is creating new challenges and opportunities for designers of all kinds.


Variously referred to as universal design, inclusive design, barrier-free design and design for all, this new approach to design is directed towards the greatest number of users including: people of all ages, mobile and wheelchair-users, right and left-handed, sighted and blind people, the temporarily disabled and the permanently incapacitated.  Contact with the consumer is essential, and it is clear that if designers, people with disabilities, rehabilitation professionals and carers can be brought into a coalition to address questions of design, spectacular advances can be made.


The aim of the Institute for Design and Disability is to contribute to this coalition by providing a focus for design effort and promoting interest and awareness of the need for higher standards of design in favour of people with disabilities.


Since its establishment ten years ago, the Institute’s membership have been involved in projects to raise standards of design in products, transport and buildings.  Through its programme of educational initiatives, meetings and campaigns, the Institute has helped raise awareness in Government and among the general public of the need for more responsive design.  It is the only national organisation dedicated to design and disability and is recognised in internationally as the representative Irish body in this area.




The Institute was established in 1991 as a non-profit-making charitable foundation.  Its purpose is to contribute to the participation of people with disabilities through the application of design.


The objectives of the Institute are to:

1. Promote interest in design as a response to disability,

2. Undertake studies of the relationship between design and disability,

3. Develop design solutions to meet identified needs.


Membership of the Institute is open to individuals and comprises designers, people with disabilities, rehabilitation scientists and other professionals who participate actively in the work of the organisation, and others who support its objectives and activities.  There is an annual subscription and persons wishing to become members apply to the Honorary Secretary.


The Institute is managed by a board of directors elected annually by the membership.


The Institute pursues its objectives through an annual programme of professional and promotional activities.

Under its Constitution, the Institute may:

  • Carry out studies and research into various aspects of design and disability;
  • Organise national and international meetings for designers and other professionals to share experiences and raise overall design standards;
  • Sponsor without-profit design competitions and award schemes and publicise the results;
  • Organise exhibitions and publish and distribute information and other material concerned with design for people with disabilities
  • Conduct seminars and courses for designers and design students engaged in the field of design for disability.

Co-operation with other bodies

The Institute works closely with statutory, voluntary and professional bodies to achieve its objectives.  It maintains close links with the Institute of Designers in Ireland and the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland and co-operates with the National Disability Authority, the Forum of People with Disabilities, People with Disabilities in Ireland, the Centre for Independent Living and the Equality Authority.

International relations

The Institute is the Irish member organisation of the European Institute for Design and Disability (EIDD).  Through the EIDD, it has liaison arrangements with the European Parliament and Commission, the European Disability Forum, and sister organisations in 15 countries.  The Institute is responsible for the promotion in Ireland of the Barcelona Declaration, the principal European Convention on accessibility.


As a non-profit-making charity, the Institute is dependent on the subscriptions of its members, grants, sponsorship and revenue from its activities.  Donations and bequests are welcome and qualify for tax relief.



Further information and membership application forms from:

Honorary Secretary

Institute for Design and Disability

National College of Art and Design

100 Thomas Street

 Dublin 8


Telephone +353 1 6364383

Facsimile +353 1 6364384





Recognised as a charity by the Revenue Commissioners, No. CHY 10515


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