NYU Shanghai Building Accessibility Survey

By Cameron Ballard, Nicole Chan, Nesma Belkhodja, Myles Herrera-Pease

May 2017


Accessibility at NYU Shanghai – using the IMA wheelchair and walker, and taking what you have learned about visual and hearing impairments (through the context of task 5 analysis and your every day use of technology), navigate the NYU Shanghai building and surrounding area as you would in your typical day. Report your findings.

PPT Presentation:


Survey findings

  • Wheelchair

For many areas in the building, navigating in a wheelchair is extremely inconvenient or impossible to do independently. Our group decided to test these areas by going through an average day for an NYU Shanghai student in a wheelchair. We began by leaving the classroom and were immediately confronted with the first challenge — though the door was large enough to exit, it is extremely heavy and must be unlocked from the top and bottom, both of which are out of reach for someone in a wheelchair. This was not the only door to cause difficulty. The main building doors lack a handicapped button to open them, rendering someone in a wheelchair again dependent on someone for assistance. Though the front/back doors do have a handicap button, it does not open the main doors (as we had expected), but only slows the rotating doors making it useless for a wheelchair user. Doors throughout the building, such as classroom doors, staircase doors, bathroom doors, were extremely heavy and hard to impossible to open without help for a wheelchair user.

We found many inconsistencies within the building. For example, the accessible  bathroom on the first floor was technically accessible by wheelchair, though by no means easily (see video). The bathroom are all located at the ends of a long, extremely narrow hallways. This gives little range for turning in a wheelchair. Upon reaching the bathroom door, we ran into trouble opening the door since it is so heavy. Entering the bathroom was also a challenge — since, again, the hallway is so narrow that it was difficult to get the wheelchair at the correct angle to fit inside the just-big-enough doorway.  

View: Video of student testing bathroom accessibility

Narrowness of the hallway leading up to the accessible  bathroom makes rotating to enter difficult. The weight of the door poses another serious problem.

The situation, however, is even worse on the eighth floor. There is a short steep ramp leading to the accessible bathroom. This ramp is almost at a 45 degree angle, and impossible to go up forwards or backwards. It not only impossible to enter, but also dangerous. The incline was so steep that the wheelchair began to tilt and almost tip backwards. Even with help, the bathroom is inaccessible to a wheelchair user.

Wheelchair approaches steep ramp and cannot pass

Steep slope completely prevents access to other bathrooms

When taking the elevator, some had handicap buttons on the side, but others do not. This was very frustrating since you can’t really decide which elevator will arrive.
Another problem we found was a lack of inclusivity for students with disability. In the first floor classrooms (for example, room 101), all the seats and desks are all stationary. If someone in that classroom is in a wheelchair, they would be forced to sit in the front, away from their classmates and without a desk.


Wheelchair cannot access fixed desk/chairs

This notion of permanent/bolted furniture and desk sizes/heights causes a great problem for students in wheelchairs and walkers because they cannot fit. The eighth floor classrooms, for example, are much more customisable: they are on wheels and some have adjustable heights. Thus the configuration can be adjusted to suit everyone’s needs.

The situation is similar  in the auditorium, where wheelchair students would be forced to sit in a designated side area on the top floor — again isolated from others. The auditorium’s handicapped area also has an obstructed view of the stage.
When testing the library on the fourth floor, the wheelchair could not fit between the stacks, so a student with disabilities would need to ask someone to help finding or reaching a book. These students would not have the ability to enjoy the school’s resources in the same was as their able-bodied friends and peers.

  • Walker

The walker experienced many problems similar to the wheelchair. We started our journey in one of the IMA labs on the eighth floor, and exiting the room immediately caused problems because of the narrow space between the student and teacher’s desks.

All of the building’s doors are heavy and incredibly difficult to open if you have to awkwardly reach around a walker, and support your body with one hand. Entering the building was a major problem as the only assistance provided for individuals with disabilities  was a button that made the revolving doors move slower. This was unhelpful since the walker was too big for the revolving doors and got stuck when we tried to enter the building.

walker gets stuck in rotating doors

Pressing handicap button does not open main door as we expected but slows revolving door. The walker gets stuck in the revolving doors and the wheelchair cannot fit.

The elevators provided major problems. A person with a walker has reduced speed, so it can be almost impossible for someone with a walker to enter an elevator because the doors close quickly and external elevator requests can be overridden by the interior close button. In other words, if a person is approaching the elevator and pushing the call button, a person inside the elevator can force the elevator to close and leave.
The last major issue we experienced using the walker was the accessible bathrooms. The sharp 45 degree metal ramp mentioned earlier made the bathroom inaccessible to walker users as well. Someone who relies on either device, wheelchair or walker, to transport themselves could not use these bathrooms.

  • Visual and hearing impairments

Our group tested building accessibility with visual and hearing impairments by exploring the 4th floor library and testing the elevators. We did not find any major difficulties navigating the building with a hearing impairment because many services provide visual feedback. However, this made navigating with a visual impairment impossible.
We found the elevators to be particularly challenging to navigate with visual impairments because no audio feedback is provided about which elevators are arriving, which direction elevators are headed, or which floors are stopped on. The interior of the back (b2-15)  elevators vary in physical design and usage: some buttons have braille, some elevators have button panels on the sides, and the floors change (some don’t stop on the 14/15th floor, others don’t stop on b2). You have no control over which elevator arrives.

elevator buttons in two rows without braille

Elevator from floor -1 to 15, buttons in two columns with no braille

elevator buttons in 3 rows with braille

Elevator from -2 to 15, buttons in 3 columns with braille

elevator buttons horizontal orientation

Buttons in horizontal orientation

elevator 5

Does not stop on floors 2-8

  • Building and surrounding area general commentary

As you can see from our above entries, NYUSH has done little to make sure their building is accessible. In many ways, the building may qualify as technically up to par, but the actual use of the facilities would be extremely unwelcoming for a person with disability. The elevators lack any auditory aids, many of the “accessible” bathrooms are at the end of inaccessible hallways or ramps, and the main entrance is hard to use for anyone unable to push a significant weight. The weight of the doors is an especially pervasive problem, from the main entrance to the “accessible” bathrooms.

While not explicitly responsible for the accessibility of the shops nearby, the school has done little to help give people with disability access to the outside of the building and surrounding area. The area around the academic building is paved with cobblestone, making transit a difficult and painful experience for anyone using a wheelchair or walker. Even though there is a ramp into the building from the Century Avenue side, it passes by the smoking area, and only gives access through another pair of heavy doors. On the other side of the building, the only options for entering the building are to go in through the revolving doors or the two main doors in the middle. There is a handicap button available, but instead of opening the two main doors, as one might instinctively think, it only slows down the revolving doors as mentioned earlier.

In our tests, this only helped someone using a cane, while the walker got stuck, and the wheelchair could definitely not fit. This left attempting to enter through the main doors as the only option. The doors, as we have iterated, are extremely heavy, so it was almost impossible while using both the walker and wheelchair. It should also be noted that this was very difficult for able bodied students using these devices. If someone with a real injury or disability tried we are not confident they could enter without help.

Though there is a wheelchair ramp on the Century Avenue side of the building, it only leads to the campus store and side of the building. It is impossible for someone in a wheelchair or walker to go down onto the sidewalk in front of the building, or access any of the shops or banks nearby because it is effectively blocked by steps on both sides of the building. As a result, a wheelchair bound person would be unable to even reach the ramp from the front side of the building. The pavement around the school is uneven and inconsistent, preventing easy access to the shops nearby. It is possible for NYU to at least make it possible for disabled people to get to the surrounding area.

wheelchair ramp that leads to stairs wheelchair ramp that leads to stairs

Handicap ramp exits to a flight of stairs. This would leave a disabled user stranded.


The wheelchair ramp is only useful to visit campus store since steps prevent mobility on right. A person would be forced to exit on the other side of the building (to the left), however this route is made difficult by a speed bump.

outside the NYU Shanghai building to street

Numerous changes in floor material around campus make traveling with wheels difficult because of the ridges between them

Personal Reflections


  • Nesma Reflection


I really wanted to work on this project because when I was 11, I broke my leg skiing and was forced to spend about a month in a wheelchair. I was very lucky because my middle was relatively equipped for a student in a wheelchair, but I still felt, in many cases, inconvenienced by many of these accessibility features. I remember that there was only one elevator, in the far back corner of the school and it would often take me up to 10 minutes to go to a classroom directly upstairs. My health classroom had perhaps 5 or 6 unavoidable stairs leading up to it and so I was unable to participate for the duration of my recovery. Instead, my teacher gave me a series of readings and essays that I was forced to complete on my own in the library, while my friends were learning together in class.

I was curious to see what kind of resources NYU Shanghai offered to disabled and injured students. Though we found a lot of aspects of the building that made things difficult for these students, that is not to say that there are no efforts to be accessible. There are many ramps, some elevators with designated buttons, some tables at an appropriate height, etc. However, what I found disappointing is that, like what I was confronted with in my wheelchair, many of these efforts still leave students feeling different and isolated from the rest of their peers.

Many parts of the school were technically accessible, but upon actually testing them we found that they were not actually accessible without help. Those that are accessible often leave students with disabilities off to the side, separate from other students. I think that if/when changes are made to the NYU building, practicality and inclusivity need to be kept in mind.


  • Myles Reflection

NYU Shanghai is one of the most diverse and all accepting schools with regards to race, religion, and political views. It was for this reason that I thought it would also be decently accessible for students with disabilities. Unfortunately our findings, as you can see, painted a very different picture of NYU Shanghai, than the accepting place I thought it was before. There are many things put in place to help students with disabilities, but most of the time the outcome is far from comfortable if it is even successful. This is very disappointing as a whole section of the population and potential student body will find this school to be difficult to maneuver and simply exist in. The experience students with disabilities  would have at NYU Shanghai would be vastly different than their peers. I hope that NYU Shanghai can acknowledge the changes that need to be made and make them so this difference can be eliminated.

In addition to the eye opening experience I got surveying the school, I also have a better understanding of what people who need to use assistive technology, like wheelchairs and walkers, go through during their daily lives. Before I was able to imagine it and observe, both through this class and in real life, but experiencing it and going through these three hours using this technology was a much different experience. I now understand how necessary it is for all places and institutions to be accessible for all people.


  • Nicole Reflection

In my freshman year of college, a classmate injured his leg and was on crutches. Yet he still needed to climb a flight of stairs to the second floor before he could use the elevator that would take him from the second floor to the third floor. Around this time, a classmate made the comment, “NYU Shanghai is so lucky they don’t have any students with disabilities.” While this observation reinforces the disabled/able-bodied binary, the implication that NYU Shanghai somehow lucked out by not having any students that required physical assistance was, unfortunately, true. A student in a wheelchair or a student with a walker would have experienced immense difficulty living on the ECNU campus. I signed up to survey accessibility in our new academic building with that experience in mind.

What I found during our group survey was regrettably worse than expected. Many accommodations that seemingly exist to aid do little to help. For example, the wheelchair bathroom was situated at the end of a narrow hallway and required significant upper body strength to open the door and enter. A person actually in a wheelchair would not be able to easily use it. Similarly, the wheelchair ramp on the century avenue side of the school’s ramp was quite steep and then required descending to a flight of stairs, completely defeating the point of having a ramp.

Despite being a new building, the NYU Shanghai academic building is in no ways disabled access friendly. Some of the design, such as the business lecture halls, may pass official building requirements but would create isolating experiences for students with disability. Other design decisions, such as front/back door, would make entering/exiting the building a daunting task on it’s own. The academic building must be adapted so the experience is not hostile to potential students and/or faculty/staff. These measures must be taken as soon as possible so they are proactive rather than reactionary.


  • Cameron Reflection

I have been in and out of physical therapy for various sports-related injuries, including once breaking both my arms simultaneously in a biking accident. This left me unable to do many basic tasks for a period of about 2 months. I remember getting around high school being somewhat difficult, just because it was hard to carry my books around. I didn’t get a lot of sympathy from most of my teachers, who had little tolerance for my tardiness. Knowing how hard school was with the somewhat restricted use of my arms made me disappointed to see how little attention NYUSH seemed to pay to making the school accessible. Because we don’t own the building, I can see large modifications being hard to implement. However, simple changes could be made to make the building much more accessible, one of the easiest being to make the doors to accessible bathrooms easier to open. It seems like such a big mistake to put the accessible bathroom at the end of a narrow hallway with a heavy door, but I can see how these are the kind of issues which fall through the cracks and leave disabled individuals with few options in society. Most people wouldn’t make that consideration when building something and would instead focus on saving space and putting the bathrooms in a less visible place.

Speaking with Matt made me realize from a personal perspective how NYUSH’s accessibility policies affect people who need them. Professor Petit repeated many times that we should bring these flaws to NYU’s attention so that they have the opportunity to address the problem before someone actually needs them to. After seeing how hard the building is to use for a person with disabilities, preemptive accessible design seems even more necessary.


Assistive Maker Challenge


On Saturday, our group did the Assistive Maker Challenge. In three hours, we have to come up with a solution for real life problems of some handicapped people. We have the prompt listed as follows

26 year old woman with a rare form of ALS leaving arms paralyzed but trunk and legs are strong. Although she does not have muscular control in her arms, she can shrug her shoulders to lift her arms a bit and if she swings her body, her arms swing. She wants to be able to put on her coat at work instead of asking coworkers for help.

I chose this case because she is about our age. And I think I understand why she would want to put on her coat at work independently. After reading the prompt for several times, we found two directions to solves the problems, that is, to either move her arms or move the coat. The final solution turned out to be the combination of the two. Then we started to search something online to see if there’s examples. However, we did not find anything useful. Then I though that if her arms are paralyzed and vertical to earth, what if we raise the coat up to fit her arms? With the rough idea in our mind, we then started to draw sketches, which we found really helpful when making the actual prototype.



FullSizeRender 2

We first went to the box room to find some materials for our prototype. We also thought that it would be more natural to put the coat on the hanger. What special is that we combine two hangers together and add some should pads to make her arms fit the coat easier. We also add some should pads. The shoulder pads can be adjusted so that they can fit all kinds of clothes. In term of actuating our prototype, we plan to make two buttons on the ground. By stepping on either one, she can adjust the height of the hanger(coat) by herself. We also made a 3D model of our design by using TinkerCAD.

屏幕快照 2017-05-10 21.33.17


We realized that our design still has a lot of limitations. For example, we don’t know how she can put the coat on the hanger. She might still need a friend or colleague to help her with that. Additionally, in our tests, the coat fell off a lot. And she would not be able to pick it up when it happens. I was also impressed by the tests. We tried and failed for many times. And it reminds me that when getting along with handicapped people, you really have to be patient and persistent.

Final Project: Assistive Technology

Project by: Lisa Barry and Rewant Prakash

  • Guest Lecture/Project Reviewer:
    • Jessica Lott

For the final project of Introduction to Assistive Technology, we were given real problems/design challenges for a potential client. After  In 3.5 hours during the final class, we proposed some design solutions, and implemented these designs to make a prototype of this design.

Client Design Challenge Given:

  • 26 year old woman with rare form of ALS leaving arms paralyzed but trunk and legs are strong. Although she does not have muscular control in her arms, she can shrug her shoulders to lift her arms a bit and if she swings her body, her arms swing. She wants to be able to put on her coat at work instead of asking coworkers for help.

Given the above challenge, we made the following assumptions:

  • User can use her mouth or legs to move objects
  • User can use her leg/extend her legs
  • User can shrug her shoulders
  • User can swing her arms around

Design Ideas:

Once we were given our design challenge, we first researched what are some self-dressing technologies that are already available for those with arm impairments. We found one common design in particular that allows people to put clothes on a hanger and put their bodies through the shirts as shown below.


However, we found that a common user of this technology either has shorter limbs, no arms, or more movement in their arms compared to our client. As a device in a constant position all the time, it is hard for the client to get her hand and arms through the arm of the jacket. Therefore, we needed to think of a way that would eliminate the necessity to do so.

Another device we found involved an electronically controlled arms that would move in a semi-circular motion from the ground in front of the user (who is seated), to the back.



We had 2 problems with this design in terms of the client’s  problem given:

1) Electronically controlled devices are limiting as is it more costly and bigger in size – it is not easily acquired or easily transported.

2) It is not subtle. Using this in the office may be too noticeable and therefore may result to her feeling uncomfortable. The device should be easily used in small spaces, or where the user would be comfortable using it.

Therefore, we wanted a way to combine the effects of these two designs:

  1. To have a design where the user can easily hang the jacket up using her mouth or feet
  2. To have a device where the jacket can be pulled up vertically
  3. Using no electronics
  4. Can be set up easily in a building

Design concept:

First, we came up with the design. We decided that we wanted to make a hanger that can go up and down using a pulley. The hanger and pulley would be operated along a flat surface that had a flat top surface, like a door. As we knew that the client had strong torso and legs, the pulley could be operated using her legs.


  • Polystyrene (for hanger hooks)
  • Cardboard
    • For the hanger arms
    • Hanger backboard
    • A friction based “stopper/adjuster” for the pulley system
  • String – many iterations to find the best string for pulley
  • Rope (for the foot component of the pulley)
  • Tape
  • Hot glue gun


First iteration:

We started off by making the backboard and the hanger arms. For the cardboard backboard, we attached strings on either side as the pulley. The strings went behind the door from the top and came to the front from under the door into a loop so that when the leg is pushed in front, the door acts as a pulley and the cardboard backboard would go up and down depending on the motion of the leg.

As for the hanger arms, we double padded the cardboard strips to make it more sturdy, and attached two L-shaped styrofoam pieces on both ends where the user can put their jackets on it. We attached this two strips of cardboard to our cardboard backboard using triangle shaped supports so that the backboard surface would be perpendicular to the hanger arms.

4  3   

5 6

User testing: While testing this pulley system, we realized that the strings were resisting the motion against the edges of the door. We also noticed that when the user pulled strings using their leg, although the backboard would go up as we hoped, the jacket failed to remain in its position on the hook. We also observed that just one loop at the end of the string that user would be pulling was not enough. Furthermore, we noticed that the entire cardboard backboard would bend down with the weight of the jacket.


Second Iteration:

Based on the user testing of our first iteration, we tried another type of wire that was more flexible in nature. In addition to that, we added more loops to the end of the string so that the user can use the next loop once they have pulled it enough, making it more convenient for the user. We decided to cut a tiny block out from the edge of our L-shaped hooks so that the jacket stays in its position until the user puts in on properly. We detached the entire project from the door to test it on a flat surface, white board in our case, to test the portability aspect of this project. We also changed the placement of hanger arms for proper distribution of weight that prevented the backboard from bending down when the jacket is hanged on the hanger arms. Finally, we added a cardboard piece on the back of the device to keep the strings apart and have some friction.

7 8 11 12 9

User testing: The user testing for this iteration was very successful. After fixing the flaws that we found out in our previous iterations, the user interaction was much smoother. The jacket stayed in its position and the addition of more loops at the end of the strings allowed user to keep pulling the backboard to the desired height.

Final project:



We believe that our prototype was quite successful in its functionality. In our future iteration, we would like to

  1. Use wooden material instead of cardboard for the backboard and hanger arms
  2. Use custom designed hooks that prevents the jacket a) to come off too early or b) gets stuck to the hook
  3. Attach a hinge to the arms to make it foldable and portable
  4. Incorporate wheels for a more fluid interaction
  5. Test and find the type of string with least friction
  6. Experiment with electronics and buttons
  7. Adaptable design to fit chairs and other office furnishings

Rewant’s Response:

Usually it can be difficult working in a group project, but I had a fantastic time working with lisa on this project as we had great compatibility and enthusiasm for this project. It was interesting to go back to basics to think about a solution for this project. We both used our foundation in science, especially basic physics, to think about an appropriate solution for this project. Often times people think of incorporating technology into the project as we assume that using technology makes everything easier. However, it was refreshing to use no technology and focus more on the mechanics. We put ourselves in the shoes of our user to design the solution appropriately, which I believe is quintessential while designing assistive technology. Given the limited time and resources, we reiterated our project twice and think about tiny details that could create a better user experience. We assumed that our user would preferably like to implement this solution at more places than just her office and keeping that in mind, we tested the portability aspect of this project as well. All in all, I found this hackathon incredibly challenging and rewarding, working on real life cases knowing and that this solution can possibly help her in becoming more independant.


Lisa’s Response:
What I really enjoyed about this project was that we were working with real life problems that people faced. Together, Rewant and I were able to come up with a solution quickly, and effectively make prototypes. We heard in class that “sometimes, the most simple solution is the best solution”. Although we had mechanics and concepts that needed work to be implemented, our final prototype did not require any advance technology, and we made a product that fits the problem well (and hopefully the client well). Putting ourselves in the client’s shoes was important. We wanted to create something that not only works, but may be comfortable for her to use, gives her control and independency. Therefore, we wanted to allow her to utilize her strengths to move freely without the need of advanced technology or electricity.  Rewant and I worked really well together with a fast paced, fun attitude towards our product. We were excited for every iteration that had gotten us closer to the goal and for every step we took beyond that to make it better. It was a very exciting challenge for both of us and listening to responses from people were very rewarding, as we knew we had made something that may benefit others.


Documentation for Switch adapted toy and Identity Meets Ability

This week’s chapter in Design Meets Disability focuses on the challenge of designing universal access that does not reduce people to their ability. In their words, “does inclusive design, in its aspiration to be universal, risk stereotyping everybody?” (90). The section “resonance of needs” points out that different situations can render disabled and non disabled people in need of the same assistance. The chapter argues that we should challenge the medical notion of disability, which reduces people to a particular impairment they may have, and introduces the concept of “resonant design” to solve this problem. The text’s resonant design satisfies individuals resonance of needs by designing equipment to satisfy a certain need, rather than a certain ability, so that it remains useful for “disabled” and “non-disabled” people alike. The text gives examples of a vibrating watch, hearing aids that can be turned on or off, and assistive furniture as examples of resonant design. This kind of design is extrapolated to targeting certain subcultures as a way to find focus and inspiration.

The switch adapted toy tutorial is a good example of design directed at needs rather than ability. Giving tutorials on how to make easily obtainable items more accessible helps individuals modify products to fit their individual needs. While not everyone can use a soldering tool, the tutorial makes it that much easier for individuals to modify their personal technology. Currently in the US, the right to modify technology is being debated in some courts. Companies like Apple prevent users from modifying their purchased hardware. While most mods for accessibility of a laptop won’t be found in its hardware, the “right to modify” raises important questions of ownership for universal design. To me, it seems important that accessible technology allow modification, and thus open source software and technology designed to be easily adapted should be adapted.

Make-A-Thon Documentation [Ale Trejo]

For the make-a-thon my team worked on the following case study:

52 year old woman with painful joints and weakness in her arms and hands wants to be able to hold her phone when walking in the street. She is not strong enough to hold the phone with one hand and touch the screen with the other. Needs something to hold the phone but it also needs to be able to move out of the way when not in use.

I was really interested in this case because I also suffered from weak limbs thanks to a repetitive strain injury I had in my wrists. Just like the woman in the case I was unable to hold my cellphone for a long time. I never realized how much I depended on my phone on a daily basis until I couldn’t even handle sending a text to my friends from my cellphone. I truly felt for this woman so I decided to try solve her problem with Miki, Susie and Karen.

Our first instinct was to shift the weight of the task from her hands to another part of her body. We knew that the woman could walk with no problems so we thought of using her waist to support her cellphone. After thinking about it for a while we decided to build a plank that would come up and down whenever she pressed a button on her side.

As we were building our plank we ran into one main issue. This issue was the placement of the phone. At first we had her cellphone be down at all times. However, this wasn’t really useful as it would get in the way of her walking as well as it could be easy to steal her phone that way. We fixed this by adding a gate system. The woman’s phone would be around her waist all the times and it would be held there by a closed gate. When the woman would press a button, the gates would open causing the phone to slide down. At the end of the plank, there would be another sensor that would detect when the phone hits it and then close a gate, lift the plank and close a gate on the other side so that the phone wouldn’t slide back down.

I’m happy with our final prototype but as always there is room for improvement. In further iterations we would like to solve different problems related to our design. The first one that concerned us was that if we had a motor to move the plank up and down, wouldn’t that mean that she would have to carry the extra weight of that motor? Ideally, we would find a way to make our device as light as possible. Adding onto this, it would even better if we didn’t need that many sensors or the motor at all. We were worried that having so many sensors would drive up the total cost of our device so we would like to find a way to make the device sensor and motor free.

Here’s a link to our presentation : Hold it up

And here are some pictures of our process:


The Plank


Making the belt


We added extra support with a glove at the back of the plank


Final prototype

Personal reflection:

Working on this project was really rewarding for me because of the personal connection I had to this case. At first I thought that it would be really hard to come up with a solution since I don’t really have much experience with working with assistive technology and I also don’t have a lot of relatives or friends who need one of this. However, by participating in this make-a-thon I realized that I had actually come really far in terms of my understanding of disability. All the readings, the class discussion and our trip to Cerecares helped me think about what a disabled person would go through on a daily basis.

Another take away I had from our make-a-thon was that sometimes low tech can be a pretty good solution. I always thought that in order to make assistive technology you needed all kinds of sensors and expensive technology. Most of our projects were made with cardboard so this changed my perspective about what is assistive technology. Assistive technology is anything that can help a disabled person perform a task. Something really simple as a cardboard chair could change the life of a person.

Finally, I’m really happy I took this class. I feel like as someone who wants to work in the technology industry it’s very important that I design products that are as inclusive as possible. Now that I’ve experienced this class, I’m sure I will think about disabled people whenever I’m developing a new product. After all, when we design for disabled people many other people also benefit.


Zeyao, ZZ, Sarabi, intro to assistive tech final project [collaborative post]


For the final project of intro to assistive technology, I decided to choose the fourth case. The case for our final is that a 53-year-old man needs a communication tool by only using his head and shoulder movement. The reason that I am interested in this case is that I was taking kinetic interfaces last semester, and I really like motion control thing. Before the class, ZZ and I briefly talked about this idea. We both thought about the assistive keyboard in MacBook. It’s in switch control, you can only press switch button to control the keyboard. Although it takes more time than type the word normally, it provides a way to let people type by only pressing one button. Then ZZ said we can use the accelerometer sensor on arduino that we can use. We thought a headband could be a really good tool to put the sensor on. So next, zz took charge of the coding part, since he had experience on this sensor before. Sarabi and I designed the headband. I think the important part for the headband is that we need to find a good material. The material needs to be soft enough to wear it also needs to hide the sensor and let people not feel it. We found a piece of stretching fabric which is perfect for this. We sew the sensor on the back of headband. When we finish both our part, we combined it together and it worked! However, it just makes head really tired. When I tested it, I need to nod my head like 20 times for a word. So we came up with the future improvement. First is the keyboard, we want to design a new keyboard and put the common using letter on the first row. Also we wanted to design a shoulder pad too for the same function so that the patient won’t feel tired if he uses his head too much for typing words.



My point of view for the in-class make-a-thon was to create something effective that could work on the spot. Keeping that idea in mind when I read through the cases, I decided to work on Jessica’s patient case – a French man (speaks English and Chinese) who wants to communicate with his family. I immediately thought about the accessibility function on MacBook that Tyler shared with us earlier. It is called switch control, and it basically scans through all the potential options on the screen for you and stays on each option for a short period(adjustable) of time when you could hit the space to make a selection, and it can basically replace mouse and keyboard but just a lot more time-consuming. I was thinking about integrating the virtual keyboard scan function with a head controller based on arduino leonardo and a flex sensor. During the class, my teammates and I spent an hour deciding what to make. We all agreed on making the head controller since it is easy, effective and feasible during the time period we were given. We also worked on the improvement of the virtual keyboard to increase the efficiency of the system we were proposing. There’s a lot more we can do to improve the system we proposed such as voice reading out loud whatever he just input.


**The fabric that we used**


**the prototype of what it looks like**


**we are sewing the sensor on the fabric**




Susie Chen_Intro to Assistive Tech Assignment 5

Last Saturday, to solve the problem of a 52-year-old woman with painful joints and weakness in her arms to hold the mobile phone while she is walking, my group member and I tried to create a device for her. 

This project actually reminded me of what my dad had told me that when he hold his mobile phone for a long time, his arm would feel sour and painful. Thus, the device can not only be for her but also for a lot of people that the strength of the arm is not that enough.

The prototype that my group has made still have a lot to improve. For now, we would like to make use of the motor to control the hold-up stick to rise and fall to support her mobile phone. However, adding a motor means that it will also need to add the battery, control board, which will be heavy to wear. However, a totally mechanical device may be hard to unfold and install for a woman with weak arms. Thus, this project is more difficult than I thought.

Hopefully, later on, there will exist a practical solution to this problem and help plenty of people.

Assistive Technology – Make-a-thon Documentation – Miki Bin

For the make-a-thon, I was interested in the challenge to find out the solution for the 52-year-old lady with painful joints. I really appreciate the case because it tried to tackle a hard problem, meeting the need to check phone message, rather than turning away from it, with the mind-set that, if she feels to painful to hold a phone, why just ask her not to hold a phone walking in the street. I really appreciate the attitude, and since this is a problem which no solution was available yet, I think the challenge became especially important to me, who knows if someone else is in similar situation and still were having problem with daily activity because of painful joints?

I partnered with Alejandra, Karen and Susie to work on the solution. I really appreciate the fact that Alejandra had similar experience with painful joints, that enabled her to give us some feedback through out the design more closely from the patient’s perspective.

Our design strategy came from the idea that if hand is not strong enough, can we distribute the weight to somewhere else on the body? My idea went to the waist, because I remembered when I was in middle school, I had a professional bag for climbing, which helped to reduced the shoulder pressure by having belt on the sides to distribute weight. What don’t we design a belt to relieve the phone strength as well?

However, our design met with a few challenges in terms of user experience: 1. will the weight of the motor eventually add more to her? 2. if we have a plank to hold the phone, when it was down, how do we solve the problem if she is walking? 3. if we make the phone able to slide, how can she move the phone on the plan and fix them in position without causing her pain?

We tried to solve by adding electronic system to the plank, so the buffer will be automatic, no need for her use hands. We added an extra plank to form a triangle structure to evenly distribute the weight. Also, we add a pad where she can put her hand in when holding the phone, to improve the stability.


*the pad to ensure stability when reading from the phone


*the third supporting plank to form a stable triangle for weight distribution


*adding buffer on the plank to prevent the phone from falling, with pressure sensor on either end to automatically lock the phone to the plank on either end



However, still we were not very pleased in the design, because we know that we were proposing too many electronic components in the equipment, that on one hand it will raise up the cost, on the other it will add to the instability of the performance of the assistive technology.

When we were doing the sharing, I like Matthew’s proposal, to enable the plank lengthen with the self weight, and to make it contract back, she just have to get a wall to push it in. That opens a new way of thinking, taking account the availability of the environment.

In the end, we were looking forward to the feedback from the lady, and if she like it we are happy to work on it further.

this is the link to our google slide:




*making the supporting belt


*the first prototype 


*making the buffer out of cardboard


*the final result!

HW5 by Amy Mao

Last Sunday we had a Mini Makeathon. I first signed up to test out accessibility at NYU Shanghai as many defects become more apparent than ever after Matt’s incident, and I thought it would be a good idea to take a more thorough look before anyone else needs it. But due to the overwhelming interest in this challenge, I had to switch. So I then grouped with Tyler and worked on problems we identified at Cerecares. After discussion, we chose to make a chair for children who are not able to keep an upright position when sitting.

After discussion, we chose to make a chair for children who are not able to keep an upright position when sitting. This issue was mentioned by the host/manager/mama of Cerecares because with head leaning forwards, the children might experience difficulties in swallowing when being fed and they could benefit in many other ways from sitting straight. We looked online, and found one adaptive chair that we would like to reproduce. It looks like this:

tha-tc-150 transition chair by theradapt

Both Tyler and I thought it’s nice to cut some slots in the back of the chair so we can fix belts that help to keep the children’s upright position, and we can also add arms with adjustable height, considering children are growing. This isn’t an innovative solution, but I believe it’s very practical and my motivation is to create our own and see how low-cost and simple it can be.



The materials we used were only cupboards. To increase their durability and stability, we prepared multiple layers. After cutting slots as how the picture shows, we glued the layers together. Luckily we found a ready-made box in the cupboard room so we used it as the seat. We added two small pieces to share the weight and also stuffed foamed plastics to spport it.

Then we assembled the seat and the back together with some extra pieces of cupboard and glue. I tested it out by sitting on it. It was confortable and durable, only the back part is a little weak. We thus had the idea that instead of making a chair, we can use it as a cover or an additional part for ordinary chairs, which can increase the utility and portability of it.

For the neck belt, we worked on Tyler’s neck pillow. To not suffocate the children, we sewed two pieces of fabrics as extensions on it. In the future, we can easily replace this stuffed pillow with air-bag pillow, which would lower the cost even more.


After everything was done, I tested it. This is how I would normally sit on a chair:


And this is how I tried to lean forwards:IMG_0574

As it’s really clear in the pictures, my position didn’t change much no matter I had control over my upper body or not, so we called it a well-done. It took us only around three hours to find reference, design, and make this, and I believe with some more proper tools, we can produce more delicate ones with not much more time and effort. Cupboards cost almost nothing, and the product was quite comfortable (because of the features of cupboards) and durable.Ii believe with arms, users can sit more stably and comfortably on it.

In the past, when it came to assistive technology, I always thought of high-tech products like an electronic arm, but after I started this course, I gradually realised that many low-tech, low-cost, while super helpful adaptations could be done to improve the living quality of people with disabilities. Another important thing I learned from this course is when designing assistive technology, it’s not necessary and can sometimes be harmful to hold the idea of helping the disabled minority. A better way to do it is to consider them as just another kind of target group and try to empathize with them, and then design products to meet their particular needs or solve particular problems.


Assistive Technology | Documentation 5 | Final Project | Kinsa Durst

For my final project I decided to help  73 year old man with disabilities have a easier time playing Words with Friends:

“73 year old man who has severe neuropathy and can’t feel his hands, feet, fingers or toes, just got into Words with Friends. He cannot simultaneously click and drag the mouse. He has to use one hand to hold down the button and the other hand to roll the track ball, to get the tile to move on the screen, which is very difficult.  This is his current mouse: https://www.amazon.com/Kensington-Expert-Wireless-Trackball-K72359WW/dp/B01936N73I/ref=sr_1_12?ie=UTF8&qid=1493239278&sr=8-12&keywords=computer+ball+mouse

I chose this project because I own a similar trackball mouse, and I was interested in what added functionality I may be able to add to help disabled people  have an easier time using it. I also used to play Words with Friends, which is why I want to help him enjoy his passion.

Possible solutions

  1. itracker

itracker is a software we found, that tracks one’s eye/head movement, which can be used to control the mouse. The mouse follows the user’s head or eye movement, and the user can click by hovering the mouse in one place for set period of time. However it was difficult to use as the mouse was too sensitive to head movement and the mouse movement did not align perfectly with the head movement. We could fix this by changing sensitivity of the software. There is also a possibility of buying an eye tracker hardware to better detect movement, but this would cost ~$200. Because clicking just using the software is a bit cumbersome, and difficult because it is difficult to have your head stationary in one position for set amount of time, we would add a large button that would be easy to press. In the end, we found this method a bit unreliable and decided to try out other options.

2. Makey Makey

Makey Makey is a hardware that allows you to connect any conductive material to it, and assign specific keyboard or mouse functions to it. We tested out mouse functions with it, by connecting it to playdoh and testing out the mouse. It was very reliable because mouse movement was very precise with the button press. Only problem was that one had to lift up and press down on the button many times, which might get tiring quickly. Therefore we decided to look into other solutions.

3. Joystick

Joystick is a good option compared to trackball mouse, because it had better control, one does not have to re position his hand to roll the trackball, and it has precise mouse movement to the control. We did not have the right resources to create a joystick, but we thought about additional support for the joystick. One thing we noticed from watching the video was that this man had very shakey hands, which might be a problem when using the joystick, as there may be many unintended mouse movements. Therefore we designed arm support that would be attached to the joystick, so that the hand shake does not affect the mouse movements.

We decided that joystick mouse would be best fit for this situation, with additional ergonomic support.