July 13, 2011

Assistive Devices: Design for Health

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The social model of disability challenges the idea that it is a medical problem requiring “treatment”, and asserts that it is a problem of overcoming barriers to ordinary life. Design seeks to serve this by providing solutions that are rooted in deep contextual understanding and integrate multiple criteria.

Emily Carr has been investigating this area within curriculum for the past 20 years. Spearheaded by the founder of Emily Carr’s Industrial Design Program, Associate Professor Roman Izdebski, students have the opportunity to work in collaboration with physiotherapists and occupational therapists from the GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre. This allows students to learn directly from the people most involved in rehabilitation, and to work directly with people with sensory, motor, and/or cognitive disabilities. More recently, over the past 6 years, the work has been led by Associate Professor Louise St. Pierre, and has grown to include collaborations with local hospitals and with CanAssist at the University of Victoria.

The task of designing for these constraints involves empathy activities, user research, co-creation, ethnography, and extensive iterative prototyping, and testing. Students are required to solve problems on many levels, including functionality, appropriateness to context, ergonomics, and technological issues, marketing criteria, interactive and human factors, product aesthetics, structural design and environmental concerns.

Work presented in this feature includes student projects from the third year Health Design course, and independent research and product development projects completed in fourth year studios.


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