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Accessible Design Weekend Fuels User-Focused Innovation

Sensors to help people secure their home and an accessible kettle were the winning entries in a recent event that encouraged participants to design and build products that are usable by everyone.

Created by accessible design social business and community Enabled by Design ( http://enabledbydesign.org/
), the “Enabled by Design-athon” featured 13 teams designing and modifying innovative items.

“If you have design-for-all as your starting point, it was about asking how we can modify things and customise things – how can we take advantage of new technology, materials and new ways of working to make things more accessible to people?” Denise Stephens, Founder of Enabled by Design, told E-Access Bulletin.

Running over two days, the event began with sessions to help participants understand some of the challenges faced by people living with particular impairments, and how they might account for these challenges when designing a product.

Given access to a range of materials and equipment, including 3D printers, the teams then set about designing their own products. Two winners were picked. The first was ‘SafeHouse’, a project which tells homeowners if all their windows and doors are closed using sensors to complete circuits. “Rather than having to go round your whole house and check that everything is secure and closed, you could have a central panel, which can tell you if there’s a window or door open”, said Stephens. “Although SafeHouse could be used by anyone as a security feature, it may be particularly useful for older people or those with memory difficulties”, she said.

The second winner was ‘Paul’s Kettle’, a device designed for an attendee at the event who was born without lower limbs. A team designed a lightweight kettle with a jug shape, modified handle and pivot, allowing someone with limited mobility to easily pick up and pour the kettle.

The design consultancy and event partner IDEO, will now run a session to help the winning groups develop their ideas and examine possible methods of acquiring funding for their designs. Other partners included: the government’s Technology Strategy Board; Ravensbourne, a digital media and design higher education institution and the location of the event; the public service consultancy FutureGov; and sugru – a self-setting rubber which can be moulded and added to items to fix, modify and make them easier to use.

Stephens said that the event had proved particularly useful for designers, who found it useful to speak directly to people about potential ideas and developing their products. “A message [from the Design-athon] would be to really involve people from the beginning of the design process. Rather than retrofitting something for somebody, why not speak to people throughout and use that information to help inspire and influence your design?”

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