Project Director: Brian Jones (GT).
The Capacity Building and Training project has three primary goals (1) Increase awareness and participatory opportunities for students, experts, and users with disabilities to identify accessibility problems and design solutions. (2) Create and promote new design guidelines and strategies for wearable devices and interfaces. (3) Train future designers to become advocates of inclusive/universal design processes and practice.
Designers, engineers, and scientists of the future will be largely responsible for the form and function of tomorrow’s wirelessly connected technologies and the application of these technologies in everyday living. This project will take a multi-faceted approach to training the next generation of designers and engineers, both on the practice of inclusive/universal design and on the design of next-generation wearable technologies capable of interfacing with other Internet of Things (IoT) systems. The project will provide opportunities for participatory design, where experts, students, and users identify problems or barriers experienced by people with disabilities and follow design processes to develop concepts for solutions. Together these efforts will instill in these designers an awareness of the characteristics of users to ensure all future wireless devices and technologies seamlessly function and assist in overcoming barriers in their environments. Universal Design (UD), also known as inclusive design, is a design approach or process for defining and evaluating “the usability of design elements” [Ostroff, 2011], and specifically described as “the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design." [Center for Universal Design (CUD), NCSU, 1997]. By following the process of UD and applying UD principles in the design of products and environments, designers will ensure the likelihood that potential users, with a variety of personal characteristics that may include impairments, can successfully utilize their product or function in the environment. [Burgstahler, 2007] Students in design related disciplines will benefit in their future careers from their experience in the application of UD principles; exposure to relevant policy and the positive societal impacts of inclusive design; and opportunities to interface with individuals with disabilities to better understand the process and application of accessible design, thus leading to the potential to become the change agents needed to move UD design into the mainstream [Fletcher, 2015].
The Internet of Things (IoT) is increasingly a hot topic around the world with its great potential for personal devices (e.g. mobile, wearable) to wirelessly connect with other IoT devices in the environment to make everyday activities more seamless. Personalizable technology trends are making it possible for people with disabilities to adapt less stigmatizing, mainstream devices, rather than traditional assistive devices, as an interface with their environment in order to overcome barriers to their successful completion of everyday tasks [Gandy, 2008].
Task 1: Advanced and Next-Generation Design Courses
Task 1 will strategically target design and engineering courses to encourage universal design or socially and culturally responsive design. The advanced design course will be a strong core component in the industrial design curriculum studio course(s) to provide in-depth training of students on the application of universal design in practice. They will be exposed to examples of technologies that reflect universal design versus those that are more assistive design – an important distinction for students to understand, along with the consequential market implications. Students will be trained on the application of newly developed design process and guidelines for the creation of innovative, personalizable, wearable interfaces that will enhance user interactions within their environment.
Task 2: Participatory and Inclusive Design Workshops
Task 2 will be designed to both raise advocacy among stakeholders for inclusive design, and to produce collaterals that may fuel future design projects, including problems, personas, and design concepts. One or two workshops per year will be held to promote participatory design sessions focused on solving independent living challenges. Participatory design is the process of involving interdisciplinary multiple stakeholders in the design process to ensure the result is more likely to succeed. A long-term objective is for students or other participants to take these concepts further, possibly toward working prototypes or products. Inclusive design workshops will develop course materials that focus on training students with mild intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) to become inclusive design advocates and apply design thinking to independent living challenges. Students will participate in design-based workshops and course experiences that facilitate an understanding of concepts and processes from the perspectives of typical design, accessible design, and universal design. Potential students will be exposed to a sampler of courses and other activities that focus on the social, academic, independent living, and career aspects of the program.