Design Your Life: User-initiated design of technology to empower autistic young adults

Thijs Waardenburg*, Niels van Huizen, Jelle van Dijk, Koen Dortmans, Maurice Magnee, Wouter Staal, Jan-Pieter Teunisse, Mascha van der Voort

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
97 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose – This article describes the development and initial experiences of Design Your Life, a new design approach implementing user-initiated design of technological environments that support autistic young adults to live independently.

Design/methodology/approach – This article makes use of a phenomenological Research-through-Design approach. Investigation of possible ways in which a set of four guiding principles could be applied into a design toolkit for autistic young adults and their caregivers by means of three design case studies was conducted. Promising methods from the design practice and literature were applied and contrasted with the lived experiences and practical contexts of autistic young adults and their caregivers.

Findings – This exploratory research yielded several important insights for the design direction of Design Your Life. Reflecting on how the guiding principles played out in practice it was noted that: the case studies showed that stakeholders appreciate the approach. The design principles applied cannot be used without the help of a sparring partner. This suggests that caregivers may be trained in design-thinking to fulfil this role. The Design Your Life method will be iteratively developed, refined and validated in practice.

Originality/value – The presented approach puts design tools in the hands of the people who will use the technology. Furthermore, the approach sees technologies as empowering interventions by which a person can strengthen their own living environment. According to this article, this approach is new for this application. It provides valuable perspectives and considerations for autistic people, caregivers, researchers and policy makers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-188
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Enabling Technologies
Issue number3
Early online date4 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2022


  • Autism
  • User-initiated design
  • Co-design
  • Phenomenology
  • Assistive technology
  • Independent living


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