Oosterlaken, I. (2014). “Design and Individual Human Capabilities - A Capability Approach to Design for Values" In: Handbook of Ethics, Values and Technological Design, eds. J. van den Hoven, I. van de Poel & P. Vermaas. Dordrecht: Springer.

Technology and the expansion of human capabilities are intimately related. This chapter discusses an
influential philosophical framework that attaches central moral importance to human capabilities, namely
the so-called ‘capability approach’, and explains in which ways it has relevance for design. A distinction
will be drawn between two different, although related design applications of the capability approach.
Firstly, in the ‘narrow’ usage the capability approach is seen as a presenting a proper conceptualization of
individual well-being, namely in terms of the capabilities that a person has. The aim of design is then to
contribute to the expansion of these capabilities, to which I refer as ‘Design for Capabilities’. I will discuss
two challenges for Design for Capabilities, namely an epistemological and an aggregation challenge.
Secondly, in the ‘broad’ usage the capability approach is seen as a source of insight and inspiration for
taking a broader range of values and concerns into account in design, most importantly agency and
justice. From this perspective, so it is argued, strong parallels can be drawn with participatory design and
universal design. In reality both the narrow and the broad usage of the capability approach in design
should go hand in hand. The chapter ends with some reflections on the challenges ahead in making the
philosophical literature on the capability approach accessible to and usable by designers.