About this Project

Connecting the Dots Community Toolkit is the result of an NYU Integrated Design and Media graduate thesis project, completed May 2021 by Caitlin Gebhard. Informed by the principles of Transition Design and Design Justice, this toolkit is designed to help disrupt ableism in community resilience initiatives by fostering Systems Thinking and inclusive co-design for community problem-solving.

Research included the following:

  • Reviewing academic literature spanning sociology, psychology, disability studies, community resilience, sharing economies and mutual aid, design theories, and more
  • Reviewing popular media describing current events related to the COVID-19 pandemic, lived experiences of people with invisible disabilities, and knowledge and insight from activists in the Disability Justice and collective care movements
  • Interviewing stakeholders: people involved with community organizations and people with invisible disabilities
  • Interviewing experts from the fields of disability studies and accessibility; mutual aid and community engagement; and transition design and design justice
  • Conducting a participatory causality mapping workshop with stakeholders (see below)

As part of my research, an initial Systems Thinking/causality mapping workshop was conducted with stakeholders in order to:

  1. Learn more about their priorities and perspectives on support and resilience
  2. Test the relevance and success of teaching collaborative design tools to non-designers/community workers

The workshop was very successful and supported the hypothesis that such a workshop would help support stakeholder goals. The subsequent design process included the following:

  • User testing of the initial prototype workshop
  • Participant survey and qualitative data analysis
  • Improvement mapping
  • Stakeholder reviews of workshop and facilitator materials
  • Sccessibility audit of documentation and presentation materials
  • Comparison analysis of similar products

The toolkit is not “an end-unto-itself, a final solution” to the problem of vulnerability within disabled communities, but a design “to open up subsequent opportunities” (1).

1. Tonkinwise, C. (2015). Design for Transitions—From and to what? https://www.academia.edu/11796491/Design_for_Transition_-_from_and_to_what 

About Me

My name is Caitlin Gebhard (they/them she/her).

As a trained technical writer, editor, researcher, and designer, I apply the principles of universal design to all aspects of communication — from planning and research to writing and delivered design.