It’s estimated that one billion individuals around the world experience a significant degree of disability. Together with the DesignSingapore Council (Dsg) and the National Council of Social Service (NCSS), our design team embarked on an intriguing and rewarding journey to innovate and reimagine social services in the Southeast Asian country – ultimately improving quality of life for people with disabilities.
We wanted to understand how people with disabilities live, work and play, and how they experience current social services, in order to design for their specific needs in the variety of situations they encounter throughout an ordinary day. To take action in prioritized areas and enable accessibility based on inclusive design, our service design team looked at both global and local trends. As part of this inclusive design approach, we conducted ethnographic design research through interviews with more than 24 individuals in Singapore.
Our qualitative research process involved several steps. We started out by “shadowing” each of our 24+ participants. This meant that our design team spent half a day with each PwD, made home visits and documented everyday lives through photos, videos and behavioral interviews. The ethnographic design study aimed to answer questions that would enable the team to gain insights about the needs of PwDs for reaching inclusive integration and participation in society. To achieve an even more accurate overview, we conducted additional field studies that aimed to describe the situations, people and places PwDs deal with on a daily basis. Questions investigated included:
- Can a person with disabilities develop his/her abilities and talents to their true potential?
- Look beyond normality. The person with a disability may have other goals and standards than a non-disabled person. What are their goals and standards.
- What are the needs for reaching inclusive integration and participation in society?
Creating a better life for all through inclusive design
We immediately captured insights in “download sessions” after each interview and observation. We narrowed down and selected the most crucial high priority insights, which made it possible for our design researchers to stay aligned, enabled them to focus on the same areas, and helped them understand and define target groups. The overall purpose of our joint sessions was to get to know each PwD and understand their daily life, struggles and hopes for the future.
Our insights were then further developed and assessed in co-creational sessions. Along with Dsg and NCSS, we brought together key stakeholders in a highly collaborative environment where they were encouraged to discuss and share insights and tangibly express needs and emotions.
Based on the sessions, we mapped out eight opportunity areas and used an innovative approach that graded participants by abilities, rather than disabilities, to find and assess areas for improvement that could pave the way for more accessible solutions. This enabled us to identify significant patterns and motivators that may shape the future landscape of social services in Singapore.
Better life by design
Our project is ongoing, and together with the DesignSingapore Council and the National Council of Social Service we have a joint goal to enhance the lives of people with disabilities by using inclusive, innovative and proven design research methods. Our work has so far played, and will continue to play, a very important part in expanding the role of design in the Singapore government, as demonstrated by their Design 2025 Masterplan.* We’re convinced that our project is of the utmost importance in improving and innovating social services in Singapore, now and in the future – ultimately creating meaningful lives for everyone, regardless of physical ability or challenge.
I enjoyed the highly collaborative and design-driven process of working closely with Veryday and our government agency partner, NCSS. The team at Veryday was consultative, sensitive and empathetic in terms of approach to the complex and sensitive topic at hand. This was a strong contributor to the level of deep insights yielded about the lives of people with disabilities, as well as the wide range of concepts generated. This is only the beginning and I hope that the Better Life by Design: Designing for People with Disabilities program by Dsg will be able to improve the lives of people with disabilities.
Joanne Teh, Assistant Director, Asian Insights & Design Innovation at DesignSingapore Council