Designers play a major role in changing perceptions of society and creating an open environment for all. With the growing technology we are now able to fulfill anything and everything from creating universal designs incorporating assistive technologies in architecture to catering specifically specially-abled product designs. In this forte, designers are extremely involved in understanding the psychology and ergonomics of disabilities they indulge in. Gradually along with being empathetic, the designers today pay equal attention to the creativity and aesthetics of the disability products to make the user feel salient. Few of the disability products are listed below that help the specially-abled people overcome daily tasks. 

OTO- The Hugging Chair (Autism)   

This Oto Chair is a type of therapeutic furniture designed by Alexia Audrain which comforts sensory integration disorders of autistic individuals. This soundproof plush upholstery cocoon has a footrest and also allows regulation of the compression via remote control to offer a calming sensation. Along with her cabinetmaking skills and association with people who understand autism, she has successfully designed this profusing disability product.  

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OTO- The Hugging Chair by Alexia Audrain_©Coralie Monnet

Annie- Self-Learning Braille Literacy Device (Blindness)  

Annie is an educative product to learn Braille in an interactive way for visually impaired children. It consists of interactive lesson modules and a guiding human voice to encourage self-learning and boost their learning capability. It also evaluates answers and responds quickly with a well-equipped system for reading, writing, and typing Braille. This disability product makes a visually impaired child self-dependent and interactive with technology. 

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Annie- Learning Ecosystem by Thinkerbell Labs_©https://www.thinkerbelllabs.com/annie

Ultrasonic Blind Walking Stick (Blindness)     

This disability product was inspired by the bats’ echolocation- by identifying the distance of an object through reflected sound. This electronic cane incorporates the same mechanics to locate the user’s context and avoid obstructions. It nudges and alarms the visually impaired individual to change the path. Even previously such disabled individuals could flawlessly navigate themselves, but this sensor-based assistive technology would be more precise to move in this rushing world.  

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Ultrasonic Blind Walking Stick_© https://www.jw.org/en/bible-teachings/science/was-it-designed/bat-echolocation/

Vibeat- to experience music (Hearing Impairment)   

The Vibeat is similar to Airpods allowing the hearing impaired individuals to sense music through vibrations. Designed by Liron Gino it is a jewelry-like product giving a contemporary tinge to this disability product enabling it to offer music from those circular modules attached to a necklace or a bracelet. These disks connect via Bluetooth and convert the music beats into vibrations at different rates to allow a user to choose the music. It is an inclusive product designed with a system that also offers music to hearing individuals. 

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Vibeat by Liron Gino_© https://www.dezeen.com/2016/08/07/liron-gino-design-vibeat-listening-devices-wearable-hearing-impaired-tactile-music/

A Vision for Better Mobility (Locomotor Disability-Handicap)      

This flexible automobile cum wheelchair design offers a versatile transit experience to individuals with a disability. The electric wheelchair by Yanko Design features 3 varied positions to fulfill different activities – a standard seating position, a half-seated position to be at eye level, or a relaxing position at ground level. It works just like a vehicle with a stylish look for a specially-abled individual to ride. Such kinds of disability products helps create a better living for the users and also give a sense of belonging to the community they live in. 

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A Vision for Better Mobility_©Yanko Design

An Arthritis Handle- a cooking aid    

Individuals suffering from rheumatoid arthritis have limited flexibility in the movement of their fingers to complete body movements. Rheumatoid arthritis affects tissues and organs mainly locking joints which leads to the movement’s rigidity. This disability product by Ching-Hau Hsu is designed after a thorough analysis and experimentation of how difficult it is to handle a boiling vegetable pan for an arthritis sufferer. This Arthritis Handle is composed of thermoplastic elastomers and a heat-resistant silicone to restrict heat transfer from the hot cookware to the user’s hand. The weight of the cookware is distributed over the forearm and layered with a padded lining and a magnetic strip to get the grip. This disability product proves to be an empathetic design by fulfilling the smallest of turmoil into a swift solution.       

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An Arthritis Handle by Hsu_©  https://newatlas.com/arthritis-handle-designed-to-help-sufferers-better-grip-cookware/18147/#gallery:2

Loop+ for tracking Scoliosis   

Loop+ is an assistive technology that tracks wheelchair users’ sitting habits. It is a device helpful to be a self-analyzer of the risk factors associated with routine sitting positions. This is a sensor pad installed under the cushion of the wheelchair which continuously records the pressure, seating position, and body movement flawlessly while the user carries out their day. This is accessible through a mobile app that can go back months ago and analyze the records. This disability product can also prevent unawareness of the user’s pain which helps treat them faster.    

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Loop+ Sensor Pad_©  https://www.abilities.com/community/loop.html

Prosthetic Leg- Practical + Stylish 

These prosthetic leg design covers are designed and manufactured by McCauley Wanner and Ryan Palibroda for Alleles Design Studio. They were exhibited in “Access+Ability” exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum which covered a wide range of accessible designs. The idea was to showcase the disability products designed to not just accomplish functional requirements but also aesthetical and stylish offering choices to the specially-abled individuals. These prosthetic legs are customized in different patterns and colors with a wrap-around zipper system, altogether functional and fashionable. 

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Prosthetic Leg- Practical + Stylish_© The Alleles Design Studio, Ltd, Victoria, BC, Canada

The Flume Tub (Handicap)  

This innovative disability product reflects the principles of a see-saw. As the static bathtub is not convenient to use for the handicapped, the designers Kim Jung Su, Yoon Ji Soo & Kim Dong Hwan took it as a design challenge. The Flume Tub is in a tilted position similar to a see-saw which makes it easy for the user to drag himself/herself from the wheelchair. As the water from the right side faucet fills the tub, it begins to center itself slowly with the weight of the water and vice-a-versa. This design concept eliminates the assistance of someone else to help in this routine task and makes the user self-reliant. 

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The Flume Tub as an accessible design._© https://www.yankodesign.com/2012/02/20/seesaw-tub/

Wheelchair Robot Arm

As the name suggests, it is a robotic arm attached to the wheelchair enabling the user to accomplish multiple daily tasks for which they are dependent on someone. This robot arm is named Jaco-Arm by the Kinova robotics co-founder Charles Deguire. It was named after his uncle who suffered from muscular dystrophy. It is a disease that gradually causes decay and breakdown of skeletal bones and snatches away the independence of the patient. However, with the growing technology, the designers are striving to achieve that independence by innovating such disability products which liberate the user from opening a door to drinking a cup of coffee on a date. 

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Canadian Tech Company Kinova’s Robot Arm._© https://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/kinova-robotics-wheelchair-robot-arm/

However, along with the growing technology and innovation, such disability products need to be launched at affordable rates too. Not everyone can afford a $35000 Robot Arm. It becomes essential to innovate some simple and smart solutions as well to make the world an undiscriminating and user-friendly place to live. With conscious design solutions, while focusing on barrier-free, inclusive, and accessible designs from architectural spaces to disability products, designers will accomplish to fabricate an ‘access for all’ world.  

References:

Online sources:

  • Shawn Mcnulty – Kowal (2022). This self-compressing chair is a therapeutic furniture designed for individuals with autism.| Yanko Design. [online]. Available at: https://www.yankodesign.com/2022/01/19/this-self-compressing-chair-is-a-therapeutic-furniture-designed-for-individuals-with-autism/ [Accessed date: 12/04/2022].
  • Thinkerbell Labs (2022). Annie-The world’s first self learning Braille Literacy Device . [online]. Available at: https://www.thinkerbelllabs.com/annie [Accessed date: 12/04/2022].
  • Hoffman+Krippner (2019). 7 of the most Inventive Applications for Ultrasonic Sensors. [online]. Available at: https://www.hoffmann-krippner.com/most-inventive-applications-for-ultrasonic-sensors/  [Accessed date: 12/04/2022].
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Bat’s Echolocation. [online]. Available at: https://www.jw.org/en/bible-teachings/science/was-it-designed/bat-echolocation/  [Accessed date: 12/04/2022].
  • Emma Tucker (2016). Liron Gino designs Vibeat devices for deaf people to experience music.| Dezeen [online]. Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2016/08/07/liron-gino-design-vibeat-listening-devices-wearable-hearing-impaired-tactile-music/ [Accessed date: 12/04/2022].
  • Troy Turner (2015). A Vision of Better Mobility. | Yanko Design [online]. Available at: https://www.yankodesign.com/2015/03/16/a-vision-of-better-mobility/ [Accessed date: 12/04/2022].
  • Paul Ridden (2011). New Cooking Aid developed for Arthritis Sufferers. | New Atlas [online]. Available at: https://newatlas.com/arthritis-handle-designed-to-help-sufferers-better-grip-cookware/18147/  [Accessed date: 12/04/2022].
  • Abilities.com. loop+ Sensor Pad and App is Fitbit for your Butt. [online]. Available at: https://www.abilities.com/community/loop.html  [Accessed date: 12/04/2022].
  • Washington Workers Advisor (2018). Smithsonian: For People Living with Disabilities, New Products prove both Practical and Stylish. [online]. Available at: https://workersadvisor.com/2018/02/01/smithsonian-for-people-living-with-disabilities-new-products-prove-both-practical-and-stylish/  [Accessed date: 12/04/2022].
  • Radhika Seth (2012). See-Saw Tub. | Yanko Design. [online]. Available at: https://www.yankodesign.com/2012/02/20/seesaw-tub/  [Accessed date: 12/04/2022].
  • Luke Dormehl (2019). This Robot-Arm from a wheelchair does everything from open doors to apply makeup. | digitaltrends. [online]. Available at: https://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/kinova-robotics-wheelchair-robot-arm/   [Accessed date: 12/04/2022].
Author

Trishla Doshi is a philomath designer and an architect in Mumbai. She aspires to foster cultural resurgence among people through reaching out to them sometimes in the form of words and sometimes design. She is in the constant exploration of the space between herself and her illustrative narratives breathing history.

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