Co-designing with children with disabilities

This resource offers a set of recommendations to enable designers, children, teachers, and caregivers to meet their respective needs and achieve their goals in a collaborative process, including areas such as design research, creative expression, learning objectives, and more.

About this resource

Why do co-design with children with disabilities?

Children with disabilities are greatly impacted by the design of products, services, and environments around us. Unfortunately, they are often left out of the research, design, and development processes, pushed to the sidelines while decisions are made on their behalf by adult designers, researchers, and domain experts who may not have lived/living experiences of disability. Even when their caregivers or parents are involved, the children themselves are rarely given a voice. By directly engaging and co-creating with children with disabilities, we can gain invaluable insights into their needs and preferences. No more assuming what they like or need; instead, we’ll work directly with them to co-create something they can use and enjoy. However, there are a host of challenges that impact on child participation and expression of ideas in a collaborative process; some structural, some interactional, some practical or physical or motivational.


This resource is about fostering direct interactions with children with disabilities, empowering them to share their creativity and ideas in ways that are significant to them. We’ll share experiences about how to learn from their unique perspectives, uncover needs, challenges, and gaps that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. This resource is an ever-growing collection that thrives on the contributions of educators, researchers, and designers who decide to share their experiences in a public forum.

The ground rules

Throughout this resource, we ground our work in the following rules to meaningfully collaborate with children with disabilities and enable their participation:

Make it in-person

The experiences shared in this resource are based on face-to-face interactions with children with disabilities. Virtual interactions won’t create the same collaborative environments, and we may miss out on whole-body expressions and other environmental cues.

Make it a child-centred commitment

This means committing to taking as much or as little time as needed to establish and cultivate a trusting relationship with children with disabilities and making them feel comfortable interacting with others involved in the process.

Take a varied approach

Each child is different, and there are no fixed solutions, tools, or techniques to help us co-design with them. This resource is a place to reflect on what we have experienced through years of collaboration with children with disabilities, not to try to prescribe specific approaches or solutions.

How to use this resource

The content of this resource is organized by three areas we need to consider when planning a collaborative process with children with disabilities. Please note that these three areas are not presented in a linear fashion and they can happen at any order and at any point of the collaboration process.


In this section, we share some of our experiences, tools, and strategies that help us create an accessible environment where children feel safe and comfortable to express their ideas.


In this section, we talk about some of the techniques and strategies we use to moderate the interaction between the designer/researcher and children with disabilities in a more inclusive and accessible way.


Here we share experiences on how we analyze and frame our learning during different moments of interaction.

Throughout this resource, we have used the Weavly project as an example to explain how some of the recommendations have been put into practice. Weavly is an open-source and accessible coding environment, along with inclusive coding resources that have been co-designed and developed with children with disabilities, their educators, caregivers, and parents.


This resource has been developed based on the experiences of practitioners who are actively working with children with disabilities to co-design different products, services, and programs. This is a community-based resource, and practitioners, researchers, and educators are encouraged to modify this content and add to it based on their experiences.


Please email us or join our discussion list if you’d like to be part of this conversation.