Julia Cassim directed the Challenge Workshops at the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design until July 2011. She continues to run the Workshops as a Visiting Senior Research Fellow.

The Challenge Workshops are a pioneering knowledge transfer programme in inclusive design that bring together professional designers at all stages of their career with disabled and older people in a co-design process based on equality and mutual benefit. She joined the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design in 2000, having lived in Japan from 1971 to 1998.

As arts columnist of The Japan Times Julia wrote extensively on art, traditional design and museum culture. She founded Access Vision, a non-profit organisation for visually impaired people, and curated and designed award-winning exhibitions for audiences with visual impairments and learning disabilities – a strand of work that continues alongside her role at the centre.

Julia Cassim studied fine art at Manchester College of Art and Design and at Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music on a Japanese Ministry of Education postgraduate scholarship. She has an MPhil from the International Centre for Heritage Studies, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, is visiting professor at Kyushu University and Hadassah College Jerusalem, a trustee of the charity Mobility Choice and lectures widely on inclusive design in the UK and internationally.

Julia’s main research focus is the development of creative partnerships between people with disabilities and designers, investigating ways to involve them in the design process to encourage innovative, inclusive thinking and the design of mainstream products, services, communications and environments that work better for all.

The DBA Inclusive Design Challenge, which Julia organised annually from 2000, has proved influential. She has developed and extended the model in different contexts, in the UK and internationally, with 24 and 48 Hour Inclusive Design Challenges held in cities worldwide.

Julia was included in Design Week’s 2010 Hot 50 list of people, organisations and movements that have influenced the design world.

Professional Commitments

Trustee: Mobility Choice and Ricability (2004-2008)
Advisor: to Natural History Museum (2006-7)
Visiting professor: Kyushu University Japan (2006 ~) and Hadassah College, Jerusalem (2007 ~)
Visiting lecturer: Tonghi University (2011)
External examiner: Department of Engineering , Cambridge University, University of the Arts London
Author: with Goodacre L. (2011) Footwear Design Challenge Workshop, internal Report to Arthritis Research UK


  • Design Week’s 2011 Hot 50 list of people, organisations and movements that have influenced the design world
  • UK-Japan 2008 Collaborative project award by British Embassy, Tokyo for Inclusive Design Challenge Kyoto 2009
  • Japan 2001 Award for ‘Echoes of the Spirit ‘ exhibition
  • College Women’s Association of Japan 20th Anniversary Award, 1994