Our ethical framework
This ethical framework is the foundation of our business. We who work at Begripsam argue that society needs to change for the better. So, there is a direction for what we want to happen.
It can be difficult to know what makes something better or worse. When we become uncertain, we use our ethical framework to help us make decisions. It shows us and others what we stand for.
This is how we describe our ethical framework:
Act in the spirit of conviviality!
Unless you have a good reason for why a conflict would be better, use a friendly approach to make people change. Develop tools for conviviality.
Act in the spirit of solidarity!
We are all fellow beings. We are in this together. We can always do something to help each other. Act in solidarity and do not pity. Avoid charity, but if someone is giving you a lot of money for a good cause, consider accepting it (and refer to the point about pragmatism).
Be pragmatic about it!
Take the steps forward which are possible at the moment. Don’t be afraid to try. Don’t be afraid of mistakes or breakdowns. Just do it better next time.
Cater for citizenship and democracy!
Go in directions that will enhance participation in society, and be as democratic as you can.
Don’t design for diagnoses!
Diagnoses are for medical research and interventions. In such domains, diagnoses provide precision. When doing design, it is the understanding of impairments and/or difficulties that provides precision. For example, if people struggle with memory, the medical reason why is not that important.
Don’t be surprised when people have needs according to their difficulties!
Why send letters to a homeless person? Why start a new medical examination on deafness if a deaf person says that his assistive device is broken? Why not just give the person a new device, or fix the broken one? Why blame a mentally ill person for not attending a meeting - why not contact the person and see how they are doing? Why demand that people with writing difficulties describe a problem in their own words, by writing a text? (All of the examples above are true stories.)
Don’t patronise, don’t treat people as vulnerable.
Think about participants with impairments or mental health issues and homeless people as equals, as co-operating partners or as co-researchers. It is a whole other thing that some of them might need special arrangements to make things work.
Emancipation and power relations
Go in directions that help people to take control over their own lives. Go in directions that empower people. Think about how to liberate people from oppression. Be aware of when you are imposing power and think about what could be oppressive in a design or a design process.
Enable - Avoid being disabling and ableist
Go in directions that support people to grow or just to be as they are. Think about the beauty of diversity. Think about the creative challenges of designing something that everyone can use and enjoy. Do not only design for ‘normal people’.
Moral or law?
Do the right thing, whatever the law states.
Think Participation and Activity and Inclusion will follow
Cater for people to be able to take part. We take part by acting. With activity comes inclusion. Think about inclusion as an outcome, not a beginning.
Think twice, it’s alright
Feedback is good. Reflection is good.
Save the world – but be sustainable and accessible at the same time
Have respect for, that also in a sustainable society there will be people with impairments and people with mental health issues, though hopefully no homeless people (but as long as there are, you have to think about them too).
Special solutions or mainstream?
Go for the mainstream solutions as often as you can. Mainstream solutions can avoid stigma, are often cheaper and probably easier to maintain over time. Only go for solutions specially designed for certain groups, if you can clearly justify why this will be better.
Also think about special solutions as provisional solutions – as a way to inform the mainstream about a possible future. Many products and services have started out as special solutions and then found their way into the mainstream.
Use guiding stars!
The space for ethical mistakes gets smaller if you let yourself be guided by powerful ethical guiding stars. A guiding star can be the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, CRPD; Universal Design; ISO 21801-1; heuristic guidelines; this list of ethical considerations… It is a good thing to have something to fall back on, to support your thinking.
An ethical framework must be allowed to be an ongoing process that will not be completely finished.
A first description of an ethical framework was presented by Mia Larsdotter and Stefan Johansson at the Nordic Network on Disability Research's Conference, NNDR, 2019.
This was approved as an ethical framework by Begripsam members, at a meeting in September 2019. It have also been published in English in Stefan Johansson's doctoral thesis Design for Participation and Inclusion will Follow: Disabled People and the Digital Society.
This version is an update made in May 2021.
Some translational updates made in May 2023.