DS 123: Proceedings of the International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE 2023)

Year: 2023
Editor: Buck, Lyndon; Grierson, Hilary; Bohemia, Erik
Author: Venkatesh, Kavyashree; Acharya, Shakuntala
Series: E&PDE
Institution: Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati, India
Section: Responsible innovation in design and engineering education
DOI number: 10.35199/EPDE.2023.115
ISBN: 978-1-912254-19-4


Designing for disability is a very specialised area where designers need to consider parameters that make the intervention socially inclusive, functionally impactful, user-friendly, and widely acceptable. Assistive devices and technologies play a very prominent role in the rehabilitation of people with disabilities. Using these in concurrence with the available treatment procedures helps people with disabilities in achieving independent living. However, designing assistive devices for children with special needs is a challenge, particularly since these users are incapable of providing adequate feedback concerning usability, usefulness, etc. This requires a holistic approach to address the nuances that contemplate the growth of the child, attributes that cater to their daily routine, emotional factors, social interactions, etc. This paper investigates the adoption of the participatory co-design approach with multi-users involved in the rehabilitation of children with special needs, such as the rehabilitation centre, the therapist, the special educator, and the parent, beyond the child. A customizable assistive device for training children in various motor skills considering the native context, abilities, and needs of children, was designed and tested as a part of this study. This work showcases how the participation of the rehabilitation centre rather, than just one stakeholder, influenced the design intervention. Other than eliciting requirements and affirming the needs of children, feedback on the prototype from multiple users and stakeholders of the rehabilitation centre proved to have high coherence, as they have a common understanding of the target audience. There have been increasingly significant efforts in exploring various design approaches for user-centric designs. Participatory, user-in-the-loop, co-design, customer-centered design, etc. are undertaken by multiple research groups, and evidence has been gathered from the literature to prove that the resultant design effectively brings out users as the key focus. Along with the inclusion of end users, there have been studies where multiple users and other stakeholders are involved in different facets of the design. While several avenues in robotics, game design, etc. have been ventured using co-design approaches, the design of assistive devices in resource-constraint settings for children with special needs is a relatively less explored territory. The benefits of extending the co-design approach, from only an individual, i.e., the user to multiple users, i.e., the entire institute, is empirically found in this paper. This approach paved the way for exploring scenarios where the device could be extended to other users or target groups and understanding new requirements from these groups within the same system. This work highlights how building a strong foundation between the institute and the design group can impact the design process and act as a platform to undertake the design of several other interventions in the future, and outlines a different take on the participatory-codesign approach in designing assistive devices for children with special needs in resource-constraint settings, as an exemplar for building collaborations at a systematic or institutional level rather than at the individual level. This ‘multi-user-centric design’ approach as an extension of the ‘user-centric design’ could be leveraged by different communities in designing solutions for special needs.

Keywords: Product design, Engineering, Learning Objectives, Co-design, Assistive Devices


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