User-Centred Design and Wheelchair Hacks Top the Curriculum at NuVu

NuVu Wheelchair Lap Tray Team

NuVu Wheelchair Lap Tray Team

Creating a Wheelchair Tray

Described as an ‘Innovation Center for Young Minds’ NuVu offers education with a distance and students at this unique learning centre have been in the news thanks to their focus on user-centred design in some of their latest projects.

Based in Cambridge Massachusetts the students at NuVu were given a project focusing on the needs of their classmate, wheelchair user Mohammed Sayed. After a crash course in user-centred design and design for all principles the students had one task: hack Mohammed’s wheelchair to make it more user-friendly.

Students got to hear what Mohammed wanted from his wheelchair, with over 50 different wish list items considered, and in the end it was just two that were brought forward, conceptualised by his classmates and then prototyped to a condition in which Mohammed could test drive them.

 

Solving the Need for Speed

WheelchairGear

Vertical Handle for Propelling a Wheelchair

One of the ideas which reached the test driving stage was put together by a group who focused on Mohammed’s need for speed. An innovative gear and lever system, which locks onto one of the wheels of the chair (pictured) was the end result. By pushing the vertical handle forward, the chair too was propelled forward thus saving energy and effort which comes from the need to manually turn the wheels by hand. The lever itself was constructed using innovative 3D printing software and technology.

Wheelchair Lap Tray (Where have we heard that before?)

The second of the inventions piqued our interest as Mohammed told his colleagues he’d always wanted a handy place for his cup and his computer but hadn’t been able to find a suitable attachment to his wheelchair online. Fellow students designed a wooden wheelchair computer tray which slides into place over the arm rests of the chair.

NuVu Wheelchair Lap Tray Design

NuVu Wheelchair Lap Tray Design

The tray has been described as much like an aeroplane tray but it’s hinged with an opening within where space has been created to store an iPad, a book and conveniently, hand sanitiser. The pieces are designed to snap together and apart with ease.

The work of the students at NuVu is commendable, seeing any institute focus closely on universal design principles and ideas which can suit people with a range of needs is a real positive. However, the creations of the students are of course not available for general sale and can’t be enjoyed by other wheelchair users – they were designed as a class project. Instead, a viable alternative, at least for the lap tray, is our Trabasack Mini. Providing the same functionality as the NuVu students’ tray, you benefit from a tray and a secure bag in a single unit, which you can keep on your lap or hang from your chair when not in use. The universal design means it isn’t solely designed for wheelchair use so anybody can enjoy one.

We’d like to congratulate the innovative thinking and design ability of the students at NuVu and with talent like this, there is hope for even more user-centred design products in the future.

Find out more here https://cambridge.nuvustudio.com/studios/iip-fall-2014/wheelchair-tray-table#tab-final

 

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