Dissertation proposal


For my dissertation I knew that i wanted to do something with inclusive design, for the elderly or disabled. Something along the lines of redesign items for them, like wheelchairs or grabbers or something that has been designed to help the elderly and disabled population that doesn’t actually function the way they need or want it to function. After doing a very basic search and finding some journal articles about disabled design and ergonomic design, and agreeing with what was said in the articles, I was sure that i would be able to write my dissertation on this topic.

I decided to do a dissertation based on theories and ideas with an artefact to back it up, by doing an theory based  paper it allows me to be able to do lots of research on each topic that i will need to know about but i won’t have to know all the tiny details, ie if i was to do my paper on electronic prosthetics then i could know the basic principles of how electronic prosthetics work and base my ideas for my artefact off that, instead of knowing what exact speed and range of motion each operating piece has in it. 

I began thinking about what i should do for my artefact; either to design a new wheelchair (with the basis of inclusive design, and making it aesthetically pleasing to the user) or to design a grip for cutlery (as being able to feed yourself is a fundamental thing in everyday life, a basic need to survive). I decided to go with the grip, as i did a project a few years ago on the subject, and had a good basic understanding of the topic, which is better than knowing nothing at all. 

i have always been interested in designing for the elderly or disabled, firstly I suffered a crushing hand trauma when i was 3, has led to me having mass physiotherapy, splints, problems doing things in daily life, like holding a tennis racket, hand writing, and holding a spoon when stirring cake mix. Also my grandfather suffered from an early age, where he lost the ability to be able to walk, and had sever arthritis in his hands and most of his joints, meaning that most daily tasks he was unable to do for himself, like getting dressed, holding a cup of tea, or even a pen became an incredibly difficult task for him to do. which lead to my grandma and the rest of the family to take care of him, making his meals, helping him in and out of his chair and anything else he might need. Not only was it my family members and my own experiences that influenced me in my interest but also the fact that I grew up all over the world, I aw people in poverty, disease and disabled states. One of the biggest influences was visiting an orphanage in Thailand that was completely full with all aged children that had been left in the street purely because they were suffering from cerebral palsy, and their parents didn’t want to take care of them. Not only did this have an effect on the reasons for why I want to design for the disabled, but it also has a massive effect emotionally, it’s an incredibility difficult site to see a building filled of cots and cribs with children under 12 all suffering from sever cerebral palsy, unable to talk, fed themselves or even support their own heads, meaning that they are completely reliable on the support of others.

I think it’s important to recognize that there is more than just the able bodied population that requires people to design for them, it’s not just about designing pretty things for people, or designing items that make the relatively simple things in life even simpler. But it is about designing products that will help the elderly, disabled, mentally disabled or disease population. There is a massive need for design which is based on social needs and the special needs of these populations that become somewhat over looked. Even though there are of course designers designing products for this population for example; wheelchairs, grabbers, prosthetics, stair lifts, crutches, walking sticks or frame, magnifying lights, and big button telephones. These products don’t always work how the user would like them to, and they defiantly look like they were only made for manufacturing purposes, without thinking of what the social needs of the user might be, based on how they want the product to function. 

In one of the journals i read it talked about the need for a new way of product design, a social design method, because wheelchairs are designed for the manufacturing process and not for the people who will use, designers tend to take a few things that are requested for the design of a wheelchair; light weight, folds up easily, electronic, designers have used these simple requests to design all wheelchairs. Based on this paper they talk about how users of wheelchairs want to have something more personal, something that doesn’t make the user look even more disabled then they need to, this reminded me of a picture that i found several months ago on Pinterest. Below is the image, several different images of different people with very personalized prosthetics, when i see images like this its makes me wonder why no product designer has spent a legitimate amount of time thinking about designing things for the disabled or elderly population, and why we don’t think about designing pretty products for this population and just purely think about designing for manufacture processes and functional, and most of the time these product are not as effective as the designer believes them to be.


Which is why when i come to design and discuss the design of the artefact I will be making, I will be taking into account the social design aspects, to create a product that will allow the user to feel comfortable when using the product in any situation (whether there at home or at a restaurant) so that the user doesn’t feel hindered by having to use a product, that will show that they have a disability. Also I well be taking first hand accounts of issues that the disabled or elderly population actually have when using regular utensils. This will allow me to create a grip that will be effective and functional in all the ways that people will need when using this product.


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