Francesc Aragall, president of the Design for All Foundation

“Diversity is always a source of creativity, growth and community relations”

After directing the public consortium that developed the “Design for All” concept in Barcelona, Francesc Aragall currently splits his work in the private sphere between the company ProSolutions and the Design for All Foundation. Recognising the learning curve represented by having someone with a disability in the family, he affirms that “the only way of surviving as a species is by respecting the environment and respecting ourselves. The more diversity that exists, the more creativity, the more community relations and the more possibilities for growth”.

P.- Is society prepared for the new diversity model?

R.- Social cohesion helps to maintain acceptable living conditions, but progress has been cut back because of the economic crisis and today, civil society is a step ahead of the administration. Fortunately, the essence still remains in the municipal technical experts, there is an increasing sense of greater acceptance, and in commerce there is a natural tendency towards facilitating things. All of this means that Barcelona remains one of the best destinations.

P.- What role do the institutions and regulations play?

R.- The regulations do not help because the Administration does not apply them, but the Act also has its limitations and can sometimes become an obstacle. Complying with it is no guarantee, nor is it always the best guidance because it cannot possibly contemplate all the different cases. The Italian law envisages the possibility that a designer may find a better solution than that established by the law itself.

P.- Are companies important for making progress with the inclusive model?

R.- Absolutely. Without companies that are inclusion-aware, we would find it difficult to do anything at all. However, the type of awareness demanded is often not that which is needed: people talk about CSR when what really needs to be explained and demonstrated is that, with a design-for-all approach in business management, companies earn more money. Some 70% of the holiday days taken by Europeans have some link with special needs; therefore, of the 5% of the GDP that is represented by tourism in Europe, some 3.5% is tourism by people who experience some kind of limitation. If you don’t adapt, people will choose other destinations. On the part of the hotel sector, it is necessary to overcome prejudices, stereotypes and the pejorative image of disability.

P.- Are we as communication professionals prepared? Are we well predisposed?

R.- We do not need experts in inclusive communication, rather we need the designers to consult experts on inclusion. Greater perception is needed regarding who the audience is and the incorporation of different models, as done by Crónicas marcianas, Dove and Ikea. Good design consists of responding with a solution that is balanced – in terms of materials, economics, functionality, aesthetics, et cetera – to a specific demand. If you are not capable of designing under conditioning factors, don’t design. We have to change the paradigm: nowadays knowledge about design for all is difficult to embrace completely, it is impossible for a single person to be knowledgeable about all the relevant aspects. It is necessary to search for specialists in each case: product, graphic, built environment, mobility, intellectual disabilities, etc.

P.- How are users incorporated into the design process?

R.- The slogan “Nothing About Us Without Us” has led to many mistakes being made because one person who uses a wheelchair is not necessarily representative of all people who use wheelchairs. As professionals, we have to be constantly investigating with people with different types of limitations and diversity of perceptions in order to learn more and gain greater insight.

P.- How would you share co-responsibility between the different agents in society?

R.- The key factors are educated users who are selective with regard to offers, professionals with an ethical approach who are capable of working together to lobby the Administration so that it provides the legal structure necessary to make inclusive design possible, and an industry that understands what it has to contribute.

Work: “Semilla Negra” by Sergio Mora
Serie Typical Spanglish, 2010

If you found this interview interesting we would like you to share it with your social networking.