Posts Tagged ‘design for disability’

3D Printed Maps in Braille

February 28, 2016 Leave a comment

Another nice idea to take advantage of 3D printers – maps in Braille. For blind people it can be challenging to find their way in a new environment and existing maps that are installed in the buildings tend to have only limited Braille labels (if any at all). A 3D printed map specifically designed for the needs of visually impaired or blind people of, e.g.  a university building, could enable them to find their way more confident. The maps are portable, in size of a tablet. The maps are developed in the Rutgers University School of Engineering.

See here for more details.


Lego for customized design of a prosthetic arm

In autumn last year I wrote about the opportunity to print customized prosthetic arms with a 3D printer (see here). Now the concept is pushed one step forward by Lego. In its research lab they developed the idea to give the prosthetic a basic component which is stuck to the existing part of the arm, a rechargeable battery unit and a customizable part. It can be customized with different Lego sets and even programmed with e.g. Lego Mindstorms.

The kid in the video looks really happy. This idea suits to the concept proposed by Graham Pullin that a disability is not necessarily to be a limitation (see in the literature section for his book “Design meets disability”). With our technology now we can transform it into an advantage that a normal person does not have, but in this case offers a positive experience for both. The Lego concept may also contributes to a playful way of learning basic programming and technology skills, for the disabled child and his/her friends.

Source: wired magazine

Translator for sign language

November 9, 2014 Leave a comment

Currently there is a campaign running at Indiegogo collecting money for a tablet with a sign language translation system to support deaf people. Motionsavvy is the startup company (link below). The tablet has a camera detecting sign language and the software translates sign language into speech and into text. On the tablet’s display the user is sees the own hand movements to help them to communicate. The system is described as intelligent with the ability to learn the users specific style of sign language.

The gesture recognition is said to be based on Leap Motion. As applicable for all systems relying on camera information, it still is a challenge for gesture recognition systems to work under different lighting conditions. A supporting point for the system is that camera technology in phones did already improve greatly in the last years. As I’m not an expert in that technology nor do I know sign language I can’t tell for sure about other challenges. I found some concerning grammar and meaning. However, the team of developers consists of passionate deaf people Who else than the users themselves would develop a system tailored to their needs.

According to the website the system is based on the American Sign Language (ASL). It would be great if different sign language alphabets could be just downloaded and installed on the device, like language packages on a PC. They have an eye on it as future development. The next development step is already in focus for team Motionsavvy. They want to integrate the system into mobile phones. A tablet is a good start to integrate the system into an everyday object. However, tablets are not so handy to be taken everywhere outside because of their size, but with a mobile phone the users would have a real good option to take it wherever they are – like a child to the playground.

Here is the link, have a look yourself:

Or to the project’s homepage directly:


Printed Prosthetic Hands

September 12, 2014 2 comments

This is a really wonderful project to support children with special needs. Volunteers contribute with their effort and energy to develop prosthetic hands for children with needs. It is not a usual prosthetic hand, it is in form of the hand of the child’s favourite action hero, e.g. one child wished for, and received a hand from Ironman. This is a child’s dream and a good idea in sense of making something more out of prosthesis. They do not need to cover up, they are a chance to be something special (something that the other kids may want as well). I see this project giving something very special to the children. Watch the video.

The 3D printer brings the advantage to make the material cheap and to easily develop new designs. In the video you see how a three year old boy receives his Ironman hand.

The project’s website:


Bionic eyes

November 29, 2013 Leave a comment

The bionic eyes are realized via a pair of electronic shades with a video camera. The visual image from the video camera is transformed into electric impulses presenting patterns of light and dark. A receiver transmits pulses along a small cable to an electronic array placed where usually the light receptors would be in the retina. The array is stimulated in the same way as light receptors in a normal eye. The electronic signal is then transmitted to the optic nerve and via the optic nerve to the brain. The resolution of the perceived image depends to the number of electrodes in the array. It started out with 16, but a version with 1000 is planned already. Precondition for the use of such a device is an undamaged optic nerve and undamaged areas for visual perception in the brain.

The name of the presented system is ARGUS. It has already successfully implanted in some participants.

Source: Dvice

Tool to avoid the carpal tunnel syndrome

April 21, 2013 1 comment

The carpal tunnel is a tunnel out of connective tissue between the bony forearm and hand. Through it go nerves, such as for movement of the fingers and haptic feedback of the hand. While using the mouse the wrist is strongly bended, causing a contraction of this nerve channel and over longer time nerves get damaged. Following effects are e.g. pain during and after use of the mouse, pain specifically at night (if the body rests) and decreased fine motor skills. Effects must be taken serious as they worsen with time and lead from an inflammation of the nerve in the beginning to permanent nerve damage.

A company brought a new product on the market for help. The product’s name is KAKUM. It looks like a mini sunlounger for the hand and meant to be flexible adjustable according to the supplier. Through its roundness it avoids the bend of the wrist and therewith avoids blockage of the carpal tunnel. Further on according to the supplier the material are of such a type that the device easily moves along the hand-movements when interacting with the mouse. This would also be an advantage of KAKUM compared to mouse-pads with wrist support. Source of the image is Yanko Design , here you also find more information about KAKUM.

KAKUM wrist support for mouse use

Yanko Design KAKUM wrist support for mouse use

Other means to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome are e.g. small tools reminding computer users to take breaks, mouse pads with wrist support, a trackball and regular training of the hand.

Breaks are not only to rest your hand but also your eyes. One of those tools is the freeware program Workrave. After a specified timeframe it reminds you to take a break from computer work. The duration of a break is adjustable from mini-breaks to longer breaks like lunch time. It offers the possibility to show exercises during the breaks. Download Workrave here.

Mouse pads with wrist support are bound to a small radius of mouse use (not suitable e.g. for a graphic designer who uses the mouse in wider space). They are not adjustable in height which makes them, speaking from my experience, sometimes uncomfortable.

A trackball is different to use. Similar to a mouse you lay your hands on the ergonomic shaped device. On the right side or directly in the middle you find a ball (more or less looking out of the device).  When the fingertips move the balls the mouse scrolls over the screen. Ensure that sensitiveness of scrolling is adjustable to your needs – not to sensitive scrolling but also not too hard. Some people like to have a scroll wheel at the trackball. It is known from a usual mouse and comfortable while reading a lot of text.

Trackball - example from Logitech

Trackball – example from Logitech

Not everyday products – open doors for wheelchairs

Did you ever wonder how wheelchair users open doors? Or maybe you are a frustrated wheelchair user? Especially at home you can leave out some doors to avoid problems to open them and make the rooms easy accessible but for kitchen, toilet and bathroom you surely want to keep a door. Important for an automatic door opener:

  • easiness installation
  • individual adjustment – of the time until the door opens, the time the door stays open
  • selectable mechanisms to open the door e.g. remote control, motion sensor, switch
  • maintenance – easy to maintain, no blockage of the door if the device fails
  • costs per one device, in case additional costs for the battery

Lately I saw a report on TV that presented a nice solution for an automatic door opener. The device is pasted on the lower edge of the door. A motor powering little wheels moves the door (open/close). Waiting time before the door opens and time the door stays open are adjustable according to the suppliers homepage. In case the device fails the website states that the door can be used in normal way. Even if you are on holiday you could take the device with you. Abotic is the device’s name. Power supply is possible via battery but can also be hard-wired. Does operation via battery a longevity of the battery and is the battery easy to charge? Is the device put in the charger as whole? Does operation via power plug consider careful handling of the cables? One device costs 1499€.

Automatic door opener, image from

Automatic door opener, image from

The principle is different to other solutions, compare:

  • ADA EZ door opener, battery powered or hard-wired, installation at the door angle needed, costs $2199.00, what happens in case of a failure?
  • Private door, installation at the door angle needed, the website makes it a bit complicated to find out if the device is controlled via switch, motion sensor or remote control, the price depends on the selected device type
  • Porteo, battery powered or hard-wired, installation at the door angle needed, costs about 800€