The City Shaped by People – accessible services for everyone

How to design accessible and safer services and environments? What kind of role design can have when thinking about global challenges? Can wellbeing be designed?

3hlöäEquality and Parity Promoted by Design panel discussion at the Helsinki City Hall on 13 September. The panel discussion was a part of the Helsinki Design Week’s City Shaped by People -programme. The panelists were UX-designer Tero Tikkanen, artist Jenni-Juulia Wallinheimo-Heimonen and communication project manager Anu Merenlahti.

Accessibility advocates equal access to social, political, and economic life which includes not only physical access but access to same services, facilities, organizations and information which everybody has. If we create services which are not 100% accessible it can be noted that they are not 100% services and lack something crucial.
There was a lot of discussion about design processes and who should be involved and how people can participate in design processes. Access to everyone including the disabled is an essential aspect on design process. The city of Helsinki has a goal to solve to following equation: Helsinki + Digitalisation+ Design = City Shaped by People. The panellist agreed that a well-designed city is accessible and equal to everyone.

hkiJenni-Juulia Wallinheimo-Heimonen reminded that disabled people are frustrated at being left out from design processes. Many disabled people think that when they are asked for feedback it’s only because it has to be done.. There’s no real interest to involve the disabled from the very beginning of design processes. Instead of utilize just feedback from disabled people designers should really observe their daily lives. The panelists agreed that a designer should have big ears and a small mouth and translate different types of signals into true user centered services and products.

As a designer it’s crucial to challenge the impossible. Anu Merenlahti emphasized that by challengeging the impossible new opportunities are created. A very good example about creating possibilities by design is Tahdon 2013 (Citizen’s Initiative for Equal Marriage Law) campaign. The campaign involved a large number of people and the impossible became possible.


TOP 3 to promote accessible design

  • Design can help shape ideas into actions so that everyone can understand them.
  • There’s no need for design super stars. A Designer is an enabler not a super star.
  • Design has to be done together as a democratic and multidisciplinary team.

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