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Things that can’t be controlled

Organizing a co-design event includes factors that the team cannot control and should be ready to adapt to.

When planning and carrying out our co-design sessions, we came across different barriers to participation that we were unable to remove, which were mostly related to the location or the structural design of the space. Some examples included loud ceiling fans that could only be turned off for short periods, echo in large open spaces, strong scents from paint/ glue/ engineered wood panels, background noise, seating arrangements due to limited space, and narrow doorways. Proximity to public transit and wheel trans pick up/drop off locations were among other issues that we could not address.

These challenges were further amplified during our embedded co-design sessions when the organizations preferred to facilitate their sessions at their local offices. In several cases, their buildings were not fully accessible (e.g. steps at the front door, far distance from public transit, non-accessible washrooms, broken air conditioner, poor lighting, etc.). As we were not involved in the facilitation of those activities, we had no control over the space chosen and we were unaware of the participants’ accessibility needs during the event.

All of these barriers took away from the participants’ experience, however, they highlighted areas that should be considered when planning a co-design session.


  • Work with your partner organizations to ensure accessibility of spaces in co-design events that are facilitated by them independently and in their own work spaces.
  • Identify accessibility issues of chosen locations/venues and advocate on behalf of the participants to ensure accessibility and inclusion.
  • Try to think of workarounds and hacks to address some of those structural, design, and technical barriers, such adding a temporary ramp, providing desk lamps, curtains, soundproofing the room with cardboard panels, portable fans, etc.
  • Be responsive to accommodations on the fly.