Categorisations Impeding and Supporting Universal Design

Per-Olof Hedvall, Daniel Wojahn, Lilian Müller, Stina Ericsson

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


The adoption of Universal Design in European countries introduces a demand for and ex-pectations of a culture which supports equality and non-stigmatisation, treasuring diversi-ty and striving towards a society for all.

Universal Design comes with a set of values, which create tensions between established practices based on “persons with disabilities” as a distinct, separate target group, and the “nonclusive” mindset of Universal Design. Seen this way, Universal Design challenges ex-isting categorisations of people into e.g. who is and who is not or can and cannot be “disa-blized”. Thus, it is important to understand how categorisations operate and what is need-ed in creating categorisations that enhance the development of Universal Design. How can a shift in categorisation grounds support Universal Design? Will it obscure or hide diversi-ty as a side effect instead of acknowledging and respecting it?

This paper contributes new knowledge about the processes of categorisation operating be-low the surface amongst the tacit and yet tangible forces which create inclusion or exclu-sion. It seeks to examine and discuss categorisation as such and how dividing people into separate categories construct similarities and differences between people. The theoretical underpinnings of Universal Design have been described as being under-developed, and the paper is an attempt to strengthen Universal Design by scrutinizing its underlying assump-tions and categorisations. The paper draws on four studies that are part of a Swedish re-search project on categorisation and Universal Design, which focuses on categorisation regarding gender and dis-/ability and involves two disciplines: linguistics and design sci-ences.

The primary kinds of material that will be used in the paper are results from studies of pol-icy documents, corpus studies of newspaper articles, and photographs contributed by par-ticipants in a citizen science study.

Analysis is still ongoing. Conclusions will be added in the final abtract.
Original languageSwedish
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Event5th International Conference on Universal Design - Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland
Duration: 2021 Jun 92021 Jun 11


Conference5th International Conference on Universal Design
Abbreviated titleUD2021
Internet address

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Nursing
  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary


  • Universal Design
  • Categorisation
  • Policy
  • Implementation

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