262042 EMPOWERING PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: Participatory Design Using Micro-Controllers

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 : 12:53 PM - 1:11 PM

Elaine J. Yuen, PhD , School of Population Health, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA
Michael McAllister, Master Industrial Design (MID) , Industrial Design Department, University of the Arts, Philadelphia, PA
Purpose: To investigate how we might empower people with disabilities to use an open source micro-controller (the Arduino) to address unmet needs in daily living. There is a growing subculture engaged in “do-it-yourself” open source electronics. People with disabilities have unique needs that are not easily met by off-the-shelf products. What might it take for people with special needs to leverage this open source knowledge base and these flexible technologies?

Methods. Five design students were partnered with five people with disabilities. Together they were challenged to learn the basic skills of using the Arduino. Participatory design process was engaged to apply these skills to address a real problem in the life of the person with disabilities. Video interviews and surveys were conducted to capture learning outcomes. This project ran in the Fall of 2011.

Results. Completed projects included custom controls for lighting, a knee-actuated camera, and a wheelchair accessory for signaling in traffic. We saw less fear and more confidence in using new technologies among the persons with disabilities; several also expressed improved cognitive and social abilities. The design students commented on their increased skill in teaching, as well as changes in knowledge of / advocacy for / empathy with persons with disabilities.

Conclusions. This project partners persons with disabilities with design students to address social problems using a collaborative, people-centered approach. We observed how both groups were empowered. This exploratory work investigates how persons with disabilities may use creative design processes to address limitations of daily living.

Learning Areas:
Advocacy for health and health education
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs

Learning Objectives:
To describe people with disabilities were empowered to use an open source micro-controller to address unmet needs in daily living.

Keywords: Disability, Collaboration

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a collaborator and co-investigator in this project.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.