Per-Olof Hedvall

Senior lecturer, Associate professor, Director of Research, Certec

Personal profile



Per-Olof Hedvall works as Director of Certec, Department of Design Sciences, Lund University, Sweden. His research deals with accessibility, participation, and universal design, with a particular interest in the interplay between people and technology. Working closely with the disability movement, he focuses on people’s lived perspectives and how human and artefactual aspects of products, services, and environments can be designed to support people in fulfilling their needs, wishes, and dreams. Hedvall has a background in computer engineering and has a particular interest in people's empowerment and opportunities for participation in their lives. 

Per-Olof Hedvall often bases his work on Cultural-Historical Activity Theory. In 2009, Hedvall defended his doctoral dissertation in Rehabilitation Engineering and Design, "The Activity Diamond – Modelling an Enhanced Accessibility", where he developed a model for planned, lived, and long-term aspects of accessibility, as a prerequisite for participation. 

Current research focus: Universal Design, Equity and Categorisation

For the past 10 years, I have mainly concentrated on trying to contribute to the development and emergence of universal design in Sweden and internationally. I am interested in how it is possible to create designs that do not discriminate against people and that do not lead to inequality and stigma.

My current research is about categorisation and how categorisation creates similarities and differences between people. The design of products and environments often places people in compartments such as "man", "woman", "person with a disability", "person without a disability", "children", "elderly", and so on. I think it is interesting how categorisation takes place and what stories it creates/enables.

There is a strong force in design, which can be used to open up opportunities, but also to close them. Sometimes exclusionary design takes place completely intentionally, as in the introduction of reclining benches on which it is impossible to sleep, but in most cases, exclusion takes place unintentionally. Therefore, it is important to actively work with knowledge and awareness of socially sustainable design that brings people together and enriches society.

On a more general level, I am interested in who may and may not exist in today's society and how it is possible to create conditions so that all people can participate in and contribute to society. The stories we tell about each other when designing influence the stories about:

Who you can be
and who you can become.

I also have a personal website where I write about things that are on my mind and share photos, images and other material. Read more at:

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities


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