Volume 11 Issue 2 (2015): Experiential Knowledge, Expertise, and Connoisseurship
Main Articles

Mobilizing Disability Experience to Inform Architectural Practice: Lessons Learned from a Field Study

Peter-Willem Vermeersch
KU Leuven & (Full) scale architecten
Ann Heylighen
KU Leuven
Published December 1, 2015
  • architectural practice,
  • disability,
  • embodied experience,
  • situation of use,
  • spatial experience,
  • spatial quality,
  • actor of innovation
  • ...More


Through their bodily interaction with the designed environment, disabled people can detect obstacles and appreciate spatial qualities architects may not be attuned to. While designers in several disciplines acknowledge disabled people as lead or critical users, in architectural practice their embodied experience is hardly recognized as a valuable resource for design. In this article, we therefore investigate what professional architects could learn from disabled people. To this end, the article reports on a field study, set up to explore ways of mobilizing disabled people’s embodied experience to inform architectural practice. Analysis of the field study’s outcome suggests that mobilizing this experience does not only add nuance to the existing accessibility standards, but also offers architects rich insights into building qualities that surpass these standards.