Adaptive Design for People with Disabilities

December 23, 2015

A collaborative team from the College of Visual and Performing Arts, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, and the Whitman School of Management has been awarded funding from the Office of Research to create a multidisciplinary learning environment in which students in design/entrepreneurial courses across the University can work alongside people with disabilities in an Adaptive Design for People with Disabilities project. This past October, faculty and students from the MFA in Collaborative Design worked with Dr. Nienke Dosa at SUNY Upstate Medical University to host a weekend-long Adaptive Design Seminar at Syracuse University. This seminar, which included collaboration with faculty and students from the College of Engineering and Computer Science, focused on building empathy, collecting data, and ideating solutions for adaptive recreation, which included dance and sports. The seminar brought together nationally known industry experts, practitioners, students, and end-users, looking to gain insights into the world of adaptive design surrounding mobility issues for people with disabilities. The grant from the Office of Research will support a two semester collaborative project between students from several schools and colleges, and will focus on acquiring and expanding existing data and interdisciplinary collaboration. Following the mantra of the disabled community, “Nothing About Us Without Us,” the team will co-develop their designs by working side-by-side with the end-user. The project will provide an experiential learning opportunity for the students involved and an adoptable approach model for other projects. The approach will carry forward the best ideas from the Adaptive Design Seminar and then evolve them towards highly refined prototypes. Data will be collected through end-user observation and study, collaborative feedback forms, and various multimedia capture strategies. About the Schools and Colleges Involved In the School of Design this investment will spur research and scholarly activities in the recently launched MFA in Collaborative Design. As a core philosophy, the group looks to embrace inclusive design principles that are demonstrated through each project undertaken within the program. Data collected from both the outcome of interdisciplinary collaboration and observational studies of current mobility impediments will fuel further universal adaptive design research. Professors Don Carr and Sarah Redmore of the School of Design currently serve as Aging Studies Institute affiliates and Disability Cultural Center advisory board members. This project is synergistic with a main research focus area in the College of Engineering and Computer Science—Rehabilitative and Regenerative Engineering. Mark Povinelli, the Kenneth A. and Mary Ann Shaw Professor in Entrepreneurial Leadership, is tasked with developing collaborative entrepreneurial student-based opportunities across the schools and colleges. This funding will provide engineering design and prototyping experience for students in the development of universal rehabilitative and assistive technologies. The project can tie into the Rehabilitation and Assistive Technology Lab, run by Professor Jurgen Babirad, which specializes in mobility design research. These funds will also be beneficial in providing students from the Whitman School of Management an opportunity to collaborate and work on student start-up activities. Alex McKelvie, Chair of the Department of Entrepreneurship & Emerging Enterprises (EEE) of the Whitman School of Management, will serve as sponsor for the Whitman School of Management (WSM). The EEE program offers an entrepreneurship consulting course focused on disabled entrepreneurs and created the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities in 2007.