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Dr. Jutta Treviranus


University College Dublin




Inclusive Design

Thesis Title

A Design Framework for a Digitally Transformed and
Complexly Connected Society


This thesis attempts to answer the following meta-design challenge: In this digitally transformed and increasingly connected society, how can we design in such a way that we include the full range of human diversity? How can we use design to both circumvent the new barriers that escalate exclusion and leverage the new affordances of emerging sociotechnical systems to reduce disparity?

This thesis documents the formulation, application and testing of a guiding framework for Inclusive Design, suitable for a digitally transformed and increasingly connected context. During the course of my doctoral studies I have iteratively formalised and refined this framework. As a doctoral student, Founder/Director of the Inclusive Design Research Centre of Canada (1993–), and co-Director of the sister European lab, the Inclusive Design Research Centre of Ireland (2008–), I have implemented the inclusive design framework in applied research with colleagues. I have also taught the framework in the graduate programme that I launched at OCAD University in Toronto in 2011. These framework applications have helped to develop tools and design methods that support the framework. The thesis conveys the formulation, implementation, and communication of the framework to several application domains.
The fields of knowledge are diverse and post-disciplinary. If a primary field must be chosen, then it would be the field of Design, not only in terms of Design Engineering but also in the broader scope of Design for Society: both are explored and developed in tandem. But the impact of the work in the ‘real world’ and within the industry sector that can support community change, is the most important aim and contribution of this research. The evolving framework is already being applied by a global collaborating community and has formed the basis of the corporate transformation of companies such as Microsoft. The applied research has delved into many cognate fields, including Systems Thinking, Deeper Learning, Economics, Machine Learning, Human Computer Interfaces, and Critical Disability Studies.

The thesis makes an original and substantial contribution to knowledge, articulating a guiding framework for Inclusive Design in a digitally transformed and complexly connected global society. The framework applies Systems Thinking to the area of digital inclusion for people experiencing disabilities, and adds the consideration of the design process to inclusive or accessible Design. Examples taken from years of intensive practice that support the thesis are provided as use cases, to support future research and implementation.

The thesis also attempts to provide a bridge between scholarly study and community action, in part by using clear language to prevent or overcome any conceptual divide between scholars and the diverse individuals who must participate in co-designing a more inclusive society. The thesis includes translations of the concepts inherent in the proposed framework, expressed clearly and succinctly, for a variety of co-designers. The thesis posits that Diversity is Strength: a concept that can be applied in many cognate fields as well.



Jutta Treviranus is a full Professor at the Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCADU) in Toronto, Canada. She is the Director and Founder of the Inclusive Design Research Centre (IDRC) and the Inclusive Design Institute (IDI).

Treviranus is a world expert[1] in the field of Inclusive Design and has made appearances at the White House and United Nations. She has "led many international multi‐partner research networks that have created broadly implemented technical innovations that support inclusion." Her work has included designing open source content and helping implement accessibility legislation, standards, and specifications. In 2013, the Governor General of Canada awarded Treviranus the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal. ZoomerMedia chose Treviranus as one of Canada's Top 45 over 45 in 2012.
Treviranus graduated from University of Toronto in 1981 with a B.Sc. in Occupational Therapy. In 1994, she earned a M.A. in Special Education from University of Toronto; she continues to pursue post graduate work at University College Dublin, Ireland.

At the beginning of her career, for the first personal computers – the Apple II Plus, the Tandy Model 100, the Texas Instruments computers, and later the Commodore 64 and Vic 20 – Treviranus designed alternative access systems for people with disabilities. She was assisted by experts at the University of Washington, the National Research Council Rehabilitation Technology Unit and the Microcomputer Application Program at the Hugh MacMillan Centre.

This project began while Treviranus was under contract as a tutor at McMaster in the Faculty of Health Sciences to integrate 12 students with disabilities into McMaster University in compliance with Bill 82, the Ontario Education Act by the Education Amendment Act, 1980, which states that “the responsibility of school boards to provide (or to agree with another board to provide) in accordance with the regulations, special education programs and special education services for their exceptional pupils.”[6] The McMaster experience “was a pivotal moment for Treviranus and inspired her work with people with disabilities (PWDs) and in the field of Inclusive Design.”

In 1994, Treviranus founded the Adaptive Technology Resource Centre (ATRC) at the University of Toronto.[8] Her first major research project was in collaboration with SoftQuad and Yuri Rubinsky, funded by Canarie. The goal of the project was to embed accessibility support into HoTMeTaL, the first HTML editor. This in part, with Mike Paciello's help, led to the formation of the Web Accessibility Initiative of the W3C.[a]

Treviranus moved the ATRC to OCAD University in 2010 and rebranded it as the IDRC. “She has played a leading role in developing accessibility legislation, standards and specifications internationally (including WAI ATAG, IMS AccessForAll, ISO 24751, and AODA Information and Communication)”.

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