Widening the Interpretation of Assistive Devices – A Designer’s Approach to Assistive Technology

DS 81: Proceedings of NordDesign 2014, Espoo, Finland 27-29th August 2014

Year: 2014
Editor: Miko Laakso, Kalevi Ekman
Author: Grieg, Jesper; Keitsch, Martina Maria; Boks, Casper
Series: NordDESIGN
Institution: Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway
Section: Users in design and development
Page(s): 303-314
ISBN: 978-1-904670-58-2


Assistive technology (AT) has traditionally focused on being ergonomic, functional and useful. The main aesthetic design maxim has been discretion, as in disguising or hiding the device. However, abandonment and non-use of acquired assistive device (AD) among people with disabilities is also a documented problem within the ‘discretion’ approach. A recent approach is to make the assistive technology products more ‘mainstream’. This paper explores various approaches to design of assistive devices. We suggest a widened interpretation of AT that can be categorized into ‘enhancing assistive devices (EAD)’ and ‘restorative assistive devices (RAD)’. The presentation gives an outlook on AT suggesting that designers should choose an appropriate strategy rather than limit themselves to a (mainstream) dogma. Its contribution lies in examining what impairment is (in and for design) and how the designer should approach some of the challenges of this design field.

Keywords: Assistive technology, stigmatization, inclusive design, human factors, visibility


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