A Reflective Process on Ableist Design Assumptions : Disability, Food Access, and Their Relationship to Design

Tayler Lynn Wullenweber, Purdue University


Accessibility often isn’t recognized to the abled-bodied. The objects, systems and tools of access aren’t even noticed until those without disabilities need it or become disabled themselves. Building on my initial academic and scholarly research, I conducted a case study at The Wabash Center; a facility that serves people with disabilities in the local West Lafayette and surrounding communities. I spent three months observing, journaling, and identifying key patterns that revealed the tensions in food access issues at the facility. These patterns included community, agency, dependency and assistance, and accountability. The issues I identified at The Wabash Center all fall under the overarching issue of power and control. Power and control describes the notion that is often exercised by abled-bodies in the presence of people with disabilities. In this context, food and food access is used as a form of power and control. It is commonly found that the issue of power and control is embedded in design and the way that designers conduct their processes. To better understand the systemic relationships and issues of food access, it was imperative to analyze the internal interactions of how disabled people negotiate in an institutionalized setting. This thesis discusses the reflection process of my efforts to look critically at my own assumptions about disability, food access, and its relationship to design.




Deal, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Nutrition|Labor relations

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