Project Lead(s): Jason Nolan
More than one billion people worldwide have a disability that can impact how they sit, move, work and communicate.
The overall aim of this project is to produce and distribute adaptively designed objects and furniture, created from accessible resources (such as cardboard, PVC tubing and rebar), in order to help children with disabilities thrive and meaningfully contribute to society.
During the grant period, the team designed, developed, maintained and staffed the Diseñando Para El Futuro lab in Cochabamba, Bolivia, enabling outreach to families, local institutional administrators, educators and caregivers working with disabled children. Schools for disabled children, orphanages and therapy centres located in the city and in surrounding communities participated and continue to participate in the project.
For the pilot project in Bolivia, the team focused on using easily accessible materials (such as cardboard, wood, PVC and rebar) but, in the Responsive Ecologies Lab (RE/Lab) at Ryerson University in Toronto, the team has already begun to develop and test prototypes that include electronics and 3D printing, which will become more universally available in coming decades.
The main outcomes of this pilot project included the development of actual objects, design strategies, new knowledge and shared experience. These outcomes will assist the team to scale up the Adaptive Design International pilot to an online global knowledge mobilization platform for sharing custom adaptations around the world, under the banner Diseñando Para El Futuro (Design for the Future).
The core invention of the project has been the RE/Lab Comunicación Aumentada Móvil, an alternative and augmented communication (AAC) device that has been developed specifically for the community in Cochabamba.
It is a low-cost AAC device that allows typed text to be converted to speech. The techniques the team have adopted enable family members or friends to speak into the device to create a vocabulary that is played back to the child’s typing. After field testing this device with over a dozen children, the team is now redesigning the prototype based on feedback.
To date, the team has established a network of six organizations throughout Cochabamba, centered at the hub at the Diseñando Para El Futuro lab, which supports over 200 children, along with their teachers, caregivers and families. One of the schools, Centros de Educación Especial Patre Ignacio Zalles, serves 54 children with profound/multiple disabilities on a daily basis, as well as 30 visually challenged children, with a staff of 15.
From constructing cardboard finger splints and spreaders for children with cerebral palsy, to the adoption of sports equipment for blind users, to the customization of sports equipment to protect children from injury, the team has helped the school develop prototypes to help blind children develop core muscle strength and curiosity to explore their environment.
The research team will continue to work on the development and fabrication of all of the objects and technologies, and will be seeking further funding to do so. However, at this time, they do not intend to apply for Transition To Scale (TTS) funding.