Per-Olof Hedvall

Senior Lecturer, Associate professor, Director of Research, Certec

Research areas and keywords




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 in close collaboration 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 resarch 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 not possible 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 - also with and in design - influence the stories about:

Who you can be
and who you can become.

Recent research outputs

Charlotte Magnusson, Per Olof Hedvall & Björn Breidegard, 2018 Jan 1, Computers Helping People with Special Needs - 16th International Conference, ICCHP 2018, Proceedings. Springer, p. 93-99 7 p. (Lecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics); vol. 10896 LNCS).

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingPaper in conference proceeding

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