The Critical Design Lab is a collaboration of researchers and artists who center disability justice in their projects and mission. As they note:
Our work pivots around the concept of access: access is our ethic, our creative content, and our methodology. We use digital media and social practice to craft replicable protocols that treat accessibility as research-creation, an aesthetic world-building practice, and an invitation to assemble community.
With their protocols, the lab calls attention to accessibility issues that emerge as datasets are created and disseminated online. For instance, in their Mapping Access Toolkit, they call on researchers to adopt participatory, community-based methods of conducting research. For researchers who want to plan this type of project, relevant questions include:
- Is the research team supporting accessibility needs during data collection? Consider the timing of data collection, the language used, the format of survey materials, etc.
- How do intersectional experiences impact power dynamics between the research team and study participants? How do power dynamics within communities impact the data collected by the research team?
The lab’s protocols have been used by groups such as the Nashville Feminist Collective to stimulate dialogue about accessibility of meeting spaces. For the Collective, this work resulted in a Google Map identifying accessible venues.
The work of the Critical Design Lab and Nashville Feminist Collective demonstrate the importance of planning for accessibility while identifying a mission, policies, and practices that will ultimately shape a project from beginning to end.