duPont Hospital for Children and the University of Delaware
Vol. 2, No. 2 -- Winter/Spring 1997


Design Methodology for Aids for the Disabled

This section features plain-language summaries of technical articles to help bring research into better focus, as well as highlight work that concerns consumers directly. This issue we feature "Design methodology for aids for the disabled" Journal of Medical Engineering & Technology, January/February 1990, Vol. 14(1), pp 2-10(one reference).

The author of this article presents an interesting case for the separation of all devices designed to aid the disabled into two separate design problems. The author feels that the lesser problem is the design of the basic device and that the greater problem is interfacing the basic device to the person with a disability.

Designer Such an approach accomplishes several important goals. First and foremost, should the user interface prove inadequate, only a portion of the design needs to be redone rather than an entire device. This is economically advantageous since it cuts the cost of design.

Additionally this approach leads to a more univesal design since it would seem possible to design a basic device and then fit it to several individuals or types of disabilities.

The author cites several case studies where in the separation of design has been used to good advantage. In all cases several iterations of the interface design were necessary while the basic system needed only one iteration. Such an approach, especially in cases where one-off items are necessary, that is where devices must be "fitted" to each individual, could drastically reduce the cost of design and development.

-Reviewed by James Fee, Research Engineer, Applied Science & Engineering Laboratories