Designing Collective Access: A Feminist Disability Theory of Universal Design
Keywords:universal design, collective access, interdependence, built environment, feminist theory
Universal Design (UD) is a movement to produce built environments that are accessible to a broad range of human variation. Though UD is often taken for granted as synonymous with the best, most inclusive, forms of disability access, the values, methodologies, and epistemologies that underlie UD require closer scrutiny. This paper uses feminist and disability theories of architecture and geography in order to complicate the concepts of "universal" and "design" and to develop a feminist disability theory of UD wherein design is a material-discursive phenomenon that produces both physical environments and symbolic meaning. Furthermore, the paper examines ways in which to conceive UD as a project of collective access and social sustainability, rather than as a strategy targeted toward individual consumers and marketability. A conception of UD that is informed by a politics of interdependence and collective access would address the multiple intersectional forms of exclusion that inaccessible design produces.
Keywords: universal design; collective access; interdependence; built environment; feminist theory