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Design Products (MA)

Joy Lu

Joy is a designer, researcher, book-lover, and a bilingual and multi-cultural person from Toronto, Canada. Joy is drawn to human-centred design and research, and because she thinks that universally inclusive design is more of a utopian concept, she is very passionate about designing for disabilities and different needs. Joy is also an advocate and activist of promoting acceptance of neurodiversity and mental illnesses.



BFA Industrial Design at Rhode Island School of Design, Rhode Island, USA. 2016-2021

  • Minor in Literary Arts and Studies

MA Design Products at Royal College of Art, London, UK. 2021-2023

  • Distinction for dissertation ‘Finding Order Within Disorder’
  • Co-leader of the RCA Neurodiversity Society



Change Starts With Education (Neurodiversity Celebration Week Exhibition), Hockney Gallery, London. 2023


RCA Neurodiversity Celebration Week 2023 -- Designed and curated in collaboration with Beatrice Sangster in Visual Communication (MA), and RCA SpLD support (Student Support Services)

  • A series of workshops at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London
  • Change Starts With Education (Neurodiversity Celebration Week Exhibition), Hockney Gallery, London.

Watercolour self-portrait of Joy, a young Chinese Canadian woman with black hair and glasses

Too often are designs for disabled people based on medical research done by doctors and scientists, with the designers knowing so very little about what the end users actually think about their lives, and what they actually need or want. And too often are the designs done by able-bodied, neurotypical designers who, even with the most empathy in the world, wouldn't understand the struggles and joy that disabled people actually experience. We need disability perspectives in disability design.

As a person on the autistic spectrum, I think it would be my utmost privilege to design for and advocate with people who have different support needs. Of course, I would also want the design field to listen to the disabled community and invite them into the design process. But first, a conversation must be had about the stigma and the societal mistreatment of disabled people.


As awareness and acceptance of different kinds of disabilities are on the rise in many areas in the world, it’s good to see that the industry is encouraging actually disabled people to design, or at least, to co-design assistive technologies and in spheres related to disability. However, very little has been done to support disabled art and design students to navigate the dual identity of both an artist / designer and a disabled person.

My project WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER aims to address the issues surrounding navigating higher education in art and design as a disabled person, through creating a handbook, a curated set of discussion objects, and a set of activity cards that would provide some guidance, prompt conversations around related topics, assist self and peer reflection, etc. In short, the project is envisioned to be a communal inclusion plan that welcomes everyone into the conversations surrounding disability and neurodivergent minds.

Diagram and schematics showing the interaction process for the activity cards and workbook
Diagram and schematics showing the interaction process for the activity cards and workbook
2 copies of the workbook, on the covers it says: WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER. The word together is multicoloure
WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER WorkbookThe workbook is divided into 7 chapters, each covering different topics, ranging from more generic information about disability history, to more controversial issues such as terminologies or sexuality, as well as more nuanced or complex facets around disability, such as disability burnout, and clashing support needs.
one workbook closed, the other open to the page disability and terminology
For some pages, the content is organised into squares that can be torn off from the pages. The user can tear off the squares that they think appropriate and put them elsewhere, such as on their locker, use it as a bookmark, or give it to another person.
a gif showing different pages and content of the workbook
There are blank pages for the users to take notes on. They can use the pages however they want: to write down discussion topics, their self-discovery, something they’ve learnt through chatting with others, or even a doodle. Due to the customisable nature of the workbook, each person’s book would grow as the person grows. Although everyone would start off with the same copy, each copy would grow into its own unique and complex collection of thoughts, discussions, and memories, reflecting the person’s journey
a gif showing the front and back of activity cards that correlate to chapter 3 Disability and Design History in the workbook
Apart from being colour-coded by the activity categories, the activity cards also have numbers on the back, correlating to different chapters in the workbook. The cards can be used in conjunction with the workbook. If the users only want to pick out cards relating to one specific chapter, they can select the cards with the same number from the deck. Or if they wish to know more about a certain topic while interacting with shuffled cards, they can also locate the corresponding chapter.
the deck of cards can be stored in a plastic pouch within the workbook ring binder
The activity cards, along with the tuck box, can be stored in the plastic pouch available in the workbook.
Diagram and schematics showing the interaction process for the activity objects bag
Diagram and schematics showing the interaction process for the activity objects bag
the activity bag is opened, showing various curated objects and discussion prompts related to disabled people's daily lives
The curated objects were selected based on either their prevalence in disabled people’s lives, or their interesting / controversial design history. Under or next to each object, written against a red background, is the discussion prompt. The user needs to either take out the object first, or to take out the folded-up red paper to read the prompt.
a pop-it fidget is placed next to its discussion prompt in the activity bag
The users can also keep and use certain objects in their everyday life if they wish. A good example would be the pop-it fidget toy, since many people would find it satisfying to play with.
a rainbow coloured infinity sign pin is placed next to its correlated discussion prompt and fact card
For many of the curated objects, there are also corresponding LEARN cards, from which the user can learn about the facts and history of that particular object.
two blue coloured puzzle pieces are placed next to their correlated discussion prompt and fact card
a red radar disability toilet key is placed next to its fact card. another fact card is flipped over showing braille and QR code
On the back of each card, braille letters QR are embossed next to the QR code. This would make it easier for blind and visually impaired people to locate and scan the code, which would then lead them to a digitised version of the same content on that particular card. They can then access the content using their screen readers. The image on the right shows what the ‘Hidden Disabilities’ page looks like as the digitalised version. All QR codes and digitalised content are updated and working.
Diagram explaining different ways to interact with different elements within the project, depending on the number of participant


Fabric, paper, ring binders, assorted objects, plastic film
Manifesto in black text written against a red background
ManifestoListen to us, really listen to us / Treat us as equals / Educate yourself, and don’t expect us to do all the explaining / Never assume, but ask us for clarifications / Encourage our independence / Never deny needed assistance and accommodation / We are not your ‘inspiration’ materials / Don’t compare us to you, or anyone else / Advocate with us, but not for us / We are part of you
The back view the object, showing the text: "fix the system, not us" on the back of the attached bag
The frame of a baby buggy was used as the main structure, symbolising how disabled people tend to be ‘babied’ by their well-intentioned friends and families. That is juxtaposed with the bike wheels that are attached on either side of the frame and the bike seat that is positioned in the middle. Although bikes often evoke the feeling of activity, vitality, and independence, the placement of the wheels makes the piece formally resemble a wheelchair.
front view of the object, showing the bike seat as well as the fabric with the texts: "I'm different, not less"
Both the baby who sits in the pushchair and the person being pushed in a wheelchair are passive, lacking autonomy and agency. But a lot of disabled people are striving for more independence, wanting their voices to be heard, and actions be seen. The accessories used in the piece, including the pouch, the straps, and the fabric, are either from baby buggy attachments, or a bike bag.
Back view of the object, with the fabric bag open, revealing the laser cut manifesto
The embroidered texts underneath the seat are for the participant to read before getting on the vehicle, while the texts on the front of the pouch are for the viewers, or the people, to see. When the pouch is unfolded, a manifesto is revealed.
Joy, a young east asian woman and the designer and maker of the object, is sitting in and interacting with the project
Although physically resembling a wheelchair, this interactive piece is in fact designed for able-bodied people. It is easy to take a healthy and ‘normal’ body and mind for granted; very few people actually contemplate how difficult it would be for disabled people to navigate in this society, and how much work and effort they have to put in for many seemingly trivial and mundane tasks. This piece is designed to ‘disable’ the person interacting with it.


Disabled people are different, and not inferior, or a tool to make able-bodied people who have saviour complex feel good, or innocent angels to be babied.

How many disabled people wish that they were not disabled? Do their able-bodied families and friends wish for their disability to be cured, to vanish, to not exist in the first place? How much work, money, time, and resources have been put into assisting disabled people? 

But just how many people would think about the voices of disabled people? How much frustration do they experience, about their conditions, the help they are receiving, the help that they are not getting, the identity crises, the loneliness and isolation, and the stigma? 

In this chaotic society, able-bodied people are busy vocalising about activism, disabled rights, and dignity, as well as medicalised technologies, medical model of disability, person-first-language, and trying to find a cure for everything. But the utterance of ‘FIX THE SYSTEM, NOT ME’ from the disabled community is too often muffled. 

Disabled people are people, like you, like me. But you would only see their disability, and not their frustration, sadness, anguish, and embarrassment, and just how the status quo of the system is doing them a bigger disservice than you can imagine, unless you actually step into their shoes, or sit in their seats. 

side view of the object, highlighting the bicycle wheels, that in their current position, resemble wheelchair wheels


Baby buggy frame, bicycle wheels, bicycle seat, steel, fabric