Re:Walk-Design for Aging
Universal Design Project
RISD spring semester, 2015
Hoon Yoon, Antonio Papania Davis
Working period : Apr.2015 ~ May.2015
"Re: Walk" is the universal design project that aims to find inconvenient factors from the elders who use a walker, and reinvent the new type of one suitable for their actual usability based on the insights from user research. For approximately 2 months, I and my classmate Antonio Papania Davis(a.k.a. Antonio) visited Providence's local sanitarium "Laurelmead", spent lots of time staying with the elders who use the walker to share about how they have been feeling about the usability of walker they got.
Through in-depth user research and prototyping test with simple mockups, we have come to realize what they actually need in terms of ergonomic usability, and designed the new types of a walker that contains several new functions that satisfy the specific conditions.
Reference: History of American Walker
Simple walkers have been manufactured since the 1950s and full wheeled walkers “Rollators” have existed since the late 1970s. Walkers have long been considered purely functional medical devices, and communicate the beliefs strongly in their aesthetic. While there have been several recent attempts to create a more humanistic walker notably The Gemino 30 Rollator and Rova Pedestrian Assistive Technology, these redesigns focused primarily on modernization and stylization. Most new designs do not propose a way to make the actual operation and adjustment more accessible to the unassisted user. It is these affordances that we have chosen to focus on for our redesign.
* Initial Roadmap
Key Research Finding
In the case of walkers, the user’s dependence on the device can have a very real stigmatizing effect on its user with the device being perceived as more of an indicator of inability than an augmenting object. Traditionally, the often highly clinically engineered look of walkers along with the fact that most walkers’ secondary functions — folding and adjustment — cannot be performed by their primary user reinforces the idea that walkers are devices for broken people, not truly helping devices. The walker is also perceived as a symbolic burden on those who help the primary users. While most walkers maintain a high standard of safety in operation, it became apparent through our research that walkers are usually not purchased by their users and many of their features are likewise directed at more able individuals. The disconnect between the necessity of a walker as a helping object and the way their design often allows only partial access to their features contributes in no small way to a walker as a stigmatizing object.
What Antonio and I have been pursuing in terms of redesigning the walker based on the user’s feedback was how to make them adjust the function of the walker only by themselves and encourage them to feel confident during maneuvering the walker in the social term. In a process of figuring out these insights, the main concern we had during concept generation term was how to redesign the walker in the concept of easier adjustment with relatively light weightiness by strategically omitting unnecessary composition for the real users— the elderly users who actually are using the walker.
Through the process of consideration, getting feedback from real users, we came to generate several main functions which will consist of our new walker design, “Re: Walk”: (1) the easier way of adjusting the width and the height of a walker, (2) ergonomic-based folding mechanism for portability. For adjusting the width and height, elderly users can easily recognize its knob by distinctive color & material to the body part and easily adjust its width and height by controlling the knob with less strength.
In regard to the mechanism of folding a walker, it allows the elderly user to take less power to complete the folding without any help. Due to the slide system embedded inside of the structure, all the elderly users need to do is just unlock the legs, lift them up easily with a spring coil embedded in the structure.
Besides the major features, there is a padded seat back which gives comfort while sitting on the walker seat, and there is a detachable basket attached to the bar, which allows the users to easily make use of it freely anytime they want by attaching and detaching it from the walker.