Identifying how design helps to improve the experience of being human, and not necessarily the user experience of a disabled person in prosthesis design development highlights the constraints of seeing a prosthesis as a process instead of a product. To investigate through personal values and situated concerns, the research settled on a case study prosthesis development with discursive and self-reflective process. It actively contributed to a better understanding of embodied thoughts on relationships. With the methodological approach of co-design framework, I point to the junctures where technology, bodies, and cultural theory intersect in a decentralised soft assembly in which disability, technology, and design act as equal partners in determining co-Abled formations.

In Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements for the Degree DLA (Doctor of Liberal Art) 2016-2022

To generate critical and new insights into our value system in human-centred societal challenges, the experimental approach of Research through Design and the power of critical disability studies explores philosophical and strategic possibilities to understand the concept of co-Ability. I introduce the term ‘co-Ability’ rooted in the critical approach of posthuman disability studies outlined by scholars such as Rosi Braidotti (2013). It serves as a broad umbrella term under which we can reconsider the potential of various entities (biological and artificial) enhancing the shared competence rather than dwelling on the oppressive nature of human-centred norms.

Graphic design by Marcell Kazsik (

The locus of the investigation built up by a single design case was initiated in 2016 at the ‘MOME enable design tour’ workshop, where I got introduced to Luca Szabados to create a prosthetic design as ‘an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context’ (Yin, 2003).
Luca’s left lower arm is missing due to a congenital disability. She is a visual designer artist who primarily creates puppets for artistic performances. After being introduced to each other, we started to discuss what kind of prosthesis she needs and how she manages her daily routines. At this early exploratory stage of the case, the initial theories (she needs a prosthesis) and the initial questions (what does she really need?) were challenged by her representation of independence and creativity and her responses to my questions.

Research background and the aim of generating new knowledge

Four years ago, Renata Dezso started her doctoral research at MoholyNagy University of Art and Design the same university she had studied at more than a decade earlier. Over that decade, she worked and survived in various design fields: she continued learning by practicing design which she felt fortunate about. At the same time, she often missed the possibility of dedicating time and resources to understanding problems interconnected with human experiences. Instead, she focused on short, market-ready product solutions oppressed by the corporate economy.

“To discover new relationships among signs, things, actions, and thoughts is one indication that design is not merely a technical specialization but a new liberal art” (Buchanan, 1992).

The research starts with prosthesis development as a tangible, pragmatic procedure developed with positivist certainties in digital technologies for inclusive and transitive design showing a caring attitude. The reflections on the prosthetic case design study invited literature reflection on critical disability studies. The argumentative development process of the object in the co-design method leads to a prosthetic arm that does not follow the anatomical shape of a hand. Rittel and Webber suggested considering ‘wicked problems’ in contested social issues that are complex and fragmented; therefore, they could not be ‘tamed’ through standard rational, analytical approaches (Rittel and Webber, 1973). ‘Soon the initial selection of questions in the design method was repositioned at another point in the framework, raising new questions and ideas considering the normative symbol of the material object’ (Dezső, 2019). By repositioning the initial task (conceptual repositioning in design, (Buchanan, 1992) of problem-solving and place the situational nature into the focal point, the aim is to generate new knowledge and to explore Research through Design (RtD) for a shared understanding.
The output of the novel method of the case study experiment is supported by argumentative and collaborative design practice, participatory observation, and also by self-reflective observation processes.

Luca Szabados testing prosthesis prototypes. Photo by Andras Ladocsi.

Doctoral viva exhibition. Photo by Mark Lakatos.

Testing the prototypes. Photo by Andras Ladocsi.

Renata Dezso Doctoral Defense

Doctoral viva exhibition. Photo by Mark Lakatos.

Testing prosthesis prototypes with Luca. Photo by Andras Ladocsi.

Doctoral viva exhibition. Photo by Mark Lakatos.


locally conducted and internationally valued results of the study that summarise the knowledge from all academic programs and mostly the doctoral research with involvement of persons with disabilities in the innovation process was recognised by EDF (European Disability Forum) and ORACLE digital accessibility scholarship, awarding a researcher with disability.


for the best project to Renata Dezso (Hungary) – project “Co-ability” by the The jury of the fourteenth International Design Contest Trieste Contemporanea BASICS composed of Giuliana Carbi Jesurun, Barbara Fabro, Emanuela Marassi, Roberto Paci Dalò, Paolo Tassinari and Janka Vukmir met on 10 March 2022.

⸺ Emerging Scholar Award from Common Ground Research Network

Fifteenth International Conference on Technology, Knowledge & Society

Full Paper at NORDES

Full Paper presentation (En) at 8th biannual Nordic Design Research Society (Nordes) conference at Aalto University, Finland

Book Article

’A gondoskodó tervezés és gyakorlati reflexiók’. In, (Budapest, Hungary: ELTE Bárczi Gusztáv Gyógypedagógiai Kar), pp. 154–166. ISBN:9789637155888

⸺ Journal article

Co-designing for inclusion in international/ interdisciplinary teams, International Journal of Education Through Art, Band 16, Nummer 2, 1. Juni 2020, S. 177-196 (20) Publisher: Intellect, DOI: