Designing and disseminating DIY assistive technology in an online environment

How can digitally connected communities have a positive influence on the psychosocial impact of stroke?

Student Name Tom Creagh
Master Thesis 2015/2016

Stroke is a debilitating neurological condition caused by a dysfunction in the flow of blood to the brain. The onset of stroke can result in complex disability that may require long term rehabilitation. The deterioration of psychosocial well-being is one of the many issues that may result from the formation of disability in an individual. Dunn (2000) defines psychosocial as “how people think and feel about, influence, and relate to actual, imagined, or assumed others”. The psychosocial, however,  is not simply about our ability to form and maintain relationships but how the influence of those relationships affects our mental and physical well being and vice versa.

The purpose of this research is to investigate what influence digitally connected communities can have on psychosocial recovery from stroke. This will be achieved through the creation of a web application. This web application will expand on the idea of non-intentional design and apply it in a rehabilitative manner. Non-intentional design (NID) is the everyday, unprofessional redesign of professionally designed objects. NID results when an object is used in a manner different from the prescribed (and therefore restricted) functional intention or when the prescribed application is not honored in the new uses. An example of this, within the context of this web application, would be using a tennis ball as an alternative hand grip for a pencil or pen. Users will engage with this web application by posting their own DIY assistive technology or assistive ‘hacks’ (like the tennis ball example) for the creation and use of by other users; essentially creating a shared database of DIY assistive technology/hacks. The intention being that through influencing the physical limitations gained due to stroke in a positive manner a person can regain confidence to engage with others socially.

This research uses a participatory design approach to inform the creation of these ‘hacks’ and to perform user testing of the web application. The testing took participants through the process of using the web application over an extended period of time to test the psychosocial impact of the ‘hacks’ based on Day & Jutai’s (1996) PIADS system.

Designer and Master thesis: Tom Creagh

Creative directors and supervisors: Kah Chan and Edgar Rodriguez