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Deborah Lalush

UX Designer, Researcher, + Communicator

Deborah Lalush

Deborah Lalush is a disabled designer, researcher, and communicator based in Raleigh, NC. She graduated from NC State in 2020 with her bachelor's in Industrial Design, and has since worked all over UX from experience design, to user research, all the way to some design management. Aside from her paid work, she works with the IDSA Disability + Design section, advocating for the visibility, rights, and better treatment of disabled designers and design students. Her two one-eyed cats are her biggest fans, though they probably don't understand any of her actual work.

A Crash Course in Ableism for Designers

Education Symposium

Rapid Fire Group A

August 25, 2023

10:00 AM - 11:00 AM


Ableism is deeply ingrained into every part of the world we live in: our physical surroundings, the language we use, and even our culture and shared patterns of thinking. Designers like to think we are above this. We are not. Designers have a tendency to get very comfortable with the idea of "design FOR disability" and only that, picturing themselves above the disabled consumer, solving problems for them with a bit of a savior complex. In actuality, disabled people are incredibly creative, constantly having to modify their environments to be more accessible to them, and therefore make incredible designers. Very few of these disabled designers come out of design school. Educators who think accommodations are "shortcuts", who blame us for "making excuses", and who refuse to allow modifications so their students can learn are the reason that so many disabled design students leave before graduating, as well as the reason their other students grow into ableist designers. Based on personal experiences in school and in the workplace as well as some secondary sources, I will cover why we need more disabled designers, what ableism is, how to start to notice it in your surroundings and your language, how to begin to work it out of your language, mindset, and curriculum, and how to better support the disabled design students you work with. When design school is better, we get more diverse designers, and when we get more diverse designers, the industry will only flourish.

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