Case Study Reflection

Case: a 53-year-old man who could only lift his head and shoulder but not talk wants to communicate with family and friends

Group Members: Ewa and Nora

Final Presentation:

I. Process:

Stage 1: Brainstorming : 

At first the case appeared to be hard to me because what our subject can do is really limited. Also since we might not be able to prototype really high-tech solutions, it seemed there were not a lot of options. So what we came up with first is the low-tech laser pointing device, which was inspired by the on market picture board.  But then it was too simple and the functions were really limited. So on the day that we had our 6th class, we brainstormed more ideas. Ewa found something called head mouse online and we thought its functions match perfectly with what we need. As a mouse alternative, head mouse can potentially allow the subject to do anything on a laptop, especially with his functioning shoulders as two clicking buttons. So we decided to offer two solutions to the case study, a low-tech one and a high-tech one, just in case the subject has a preference based on his personal background. We got a lot of help from Luis and Jiwon in that workshop class and we were really grateful. Luis was really good at pushing us to think about questions like how the subject’s financial and educational condition will affect our solutions. With his instructions we thought further and took a lot of factors into consideration. Jiwon on the other hand gave good feedback and suggestions on how we could design the high-tech head mouse. Instead of using some motion sensors on the shoulders, she suggested some rods hanging down which could be touched by the shoulder. And that is actually what we did in our prototype.

After that class we though it would be important that we obtain more information about the subject himself since it will determine our final design of the solutions. So we emailed Marianne and got told that the man is well educated and in a rather good financial situation. We were happy to learn that the patient would be able to use a laptop so that the head mouse solution could be further developed. But we also decided to keep the low tech solution just in case the subject prefer it to the other.

     Stage 2: Researching

After the brainstorm stage we moved onto the research stage. We wanted to figure out is available on the market first and how they can incorporate with our idea. So we found some free software online that can use the computer camera to capture the movement of the head to replace the mouse curser. We mainly tested out “Camera Mouse” (windows) and “iTracker” (Mac) and found that the biggest problem of these softwares is that the dwelling function is not that easy to use. That is, when you try to click on something, the software asks you to fix you movement and after a few second it will click automatically for you. The difficulty here is that first it’s really difficult for one to stay still for that long, and when it comes to some really small buttons it’s really difficult to click on. Other than that we thought the tracking was actually pretty good. So we tried to find something that could replace the clicking but didn’t find anything super satisfactory. So we decided to to prototype something that can make the clicking easier.

In terms of the low tech solution we though it was easy to prototype on our own and the biggest issues will be how tiring it would be, is the laser easy to track and easy to be seen, etc.

 Stage 3: Prototyping

1. Low-tech :  The low-tech solution is easy to prototype. We used hard paper to make a ring on the head and placed the mini laser pen on the ring. We tested it with three different boards (with loose pictures, medium arrangement pictures, and tight arrangement pictures) and it all worked well. Please see video here:

2. High-tech: The idea of prototyping something high-tech first intimidated us, but encouraged by Marianne and with the assistance from Luis, we successfully made it possible with Makey-Makey. What we wanted eventually is to make the two shoulders the left and right click of the mouse, and by lifting them the mouse can work properly with the head tracking software. We made two wings attached to a cupboard head crown and put conductive tape on each of them. And then we made to should pad with conductive tape on them as well. When the pad and the wind touched the “mouse” is supposed to click. Then we found that the should pad was not necessary as it fell so easily and sometimes made it hard to feel that the shoulder touched the wing. So eventually we just put layers of conductive tape on the shoulder. As we tested the prototype with the software “iTrack” (the subject has a mac computer), the device would allow the subject to type, watch videos online and more. The user experience wasn’t too bad either, it was not tiring to use it for 10-15 minutes and it was very easy to learn how to use it. Please see video of watching a youtube video with the prototype here:

II. Challenges

Our project went mostly smooth actually, but some of the challenges we had in the process would be the part of making the prototype. Ewa and I don’t feel super comfortable with playing with arduino and stuff so we were sort of reluctant to prototype the high-tech solution (while it actually turned out pretty low-tech in the end). But we know it is very important to test and experience out design before we suggest it to the subject, we still did it in the end. Surprisingly it wasn’t difficult at all to use Makey Makey and construct the prototype, and I think we both enjoyed the process very much. Our prototype looked like a toilet with two feet, which we laughed at each other for a long time. I am really glad that we managed to make it happen. And I think what I learned from it is that sometimes it’s really important to get out your comfort zone and have a try. If we only stay at the theoretical level we will never know if our proposal will be feasible and good for the subject

III. Future Improvements

Now the prototypes are really simple. In the future after talking to the subject we wanna see which he would like to try first and make some improvements. For the laser pointing device we would like to explore if the laser could be put in to the glasses or a hat. And for the head mouse, of course we want to make the device more comfortable to wear, that might include replacing cupboard with some other materials like plastic and foam. Besides we would love to make the device more smooth to use. Also we might consider combine the two solutions if the subject is willing to use both of them. And aesthetically, we definitely want to make the devices more beautiful to wear. Hopefully we can get some feedback from the subject himself as well.


Cerecares Trip Response – Sam Arellano

Cerecares Trip

This trip was really enjoyable. My aunt is disabled and has been through different day programs and care facilities so I’ve had experience going to them and seeing them before. Thankfully, the majority of the ones I’ve seen have been happy places where she was given good opportunities to work on tasks, learn skills, and interact with others, but I’ve also come in contact with some of the facilities that create the stigmas against care homes. The kind of places where the tenants aren’t adequately taken care of, where the facility is understaffed, tenants are ignored, the location is filthy and so are the tenants. By no means is this is the fault of the tenants staying there, and it isn’t the fault of the caretakers either most of the time, they are often overworked and underpaid. But regardless of where the blame lies, it was a great surprise that Cerecares was nothing like one of those institutions.

Walking through the halls, it was easy to see that the staff and organizers loved the students. Their work was on the walls to show off, the way that staff and volunteers looked at the kids with genuine pride when the student was able to complete a task. The kids weren’t being looked at as a burden or a task to take care of, but as legitimate students that were learning new things and had bright futures ahead of them along with great personalities.

The story of the whole facility was also very heartwarming. The first video they showed about the founder’s own life journey and her eventual opening of Cerecares was pretty inspiring. That being said, the other promotional materials felt a little, patronizing? They felt like “suffer porn” where people can look at someone else’s situation and be like “well I might have it bad but at least I’m not them”, or to put in a overly inspirational light that just comes off as ingenuine. I’m not sure the exact way to phrase it, but they felt uncomfortable. The story of the boy being adopted was framed as a story of him overcoming hardship with a closed happy ending, but even the “happy ending” felt at best bittersweet, at worst very depressing and not even in his best interests. And the music montage video was Sarah McLachlan singing over dying puppies levels of manipulative. We did discuss on the bus how this is rooted in cultural differences between China and the United States, but even so, it still feels over the top and against the essence of the facility’s mission statement.

Awkward promotional materials aside, It was a great trip and its easy to see the facility is making great impacts in the students lives. I hope that it can get the funding it deserves to continue making a difference and helping these individuals learn the skills they need for more independence.

Assistive Tech Week 3 Response – Sam Arellano

How to switch adapt a toy

This video surprised me at just how simple the entire process was. I primarily work with software, and honestly, messing around with hardware often intimidates me. I know it shouldn’t, but theres just something so malleable and low stakes about coding. Arduino and breadboards are fine, but once it gets to soldering or messing with existing wiring, I don’t think of that as my domain. This video showed just how simple, and moreover, cheap it is to do. When I see the toys that are usually sold for disabled people and the equipment its usually in the hundreds of dollars, when this toy could be put together with 10 dollars and 15 minutes of time. Even if its not a business idea, it seems like a great skill to have to be able to help people out.

Feelings meets Testing

This article was extremely interesting. I often take the current state of design for granted, assuming industry standards have just always been that way. Growing up in California everyone had their “lean startup mentality” and you were always running into people putting together prototypes and MVP’s, so its easy to think that this is the way its always been as opposed to a new development. This article went more into how prototyping has developed, specifically when it comes to creating an experience of usage for your testers. The other point of interest is just how recently a lot of these developments have occurred. The focus on usage and user interface design really only seems to have took off in the past two to three decades. I feel this is a great development not just for disabled individuals, but for everyone. Calling back to the curb cut effect, this new way of designing and prototyping just naturally leads to a better user experience. What good is form and features if the actual user experience just sucks? This then leads me to thinking how much more will change in just the time of my own career. Who knows what the next big development to come is.


Assistive – Field Trip Response by Bruce

Have only seen this kind of facilities on the television, it is quite shocking for me to be there personally, And the shock comes from the difference of imagination and reality. I have no idea why, but this kind of facilities feel like a cold place to me. Cerecares is a heartwarming place, and it’s not very different from the kindergartens and elementary schools in my memory. While some of them relies on tools to stand and walk, some of them look no different from children in common schools. However, the extremely high staff to student ratio reminds me of the particularity of the school. They tailor rehabilitation and learning plans for each student, depending on their situation. The tools they use are also hand-crafted, nothing high-tech but fits their needs. So, from an outsider’s point of view, they are generally doing well.

But there are a few things caught my attention. One is our tour guide’s choice of words. As we talked on the bus, this could be because of cultural / social status factors. Another thing is the sustainability. From what we have known about them, they are shrinking in scale. Running almost fully on donations and requiring children to have their parents agreeing them to be able to stay in the school, I feel indistinctly worried about their future.

China is growing in all aspects, and I do pray for a brighter future to these kids. There are lots of stuff we could do to make China more universally designed, and a lot more to raise the social attention of this group.

Responses by MÁTé

1 How to Switch Adapt a Toy?

The thing that caught me in the video was one that I’ve seen in the IMA lab many times, which is just how simple it is to hack something so that it becomes more interesting, or in this case accessible. It almost makes me question that if creating accessible toys is this easy, why don’t we see them being manufactured, but then I remember: it is easier to make a million things cheaply than a few thousand.

2 Field Trip

The visit to Cenecare was extremely interesting and a heartwarming sight to behold. Even though I had the feeling (mainly through the videos shown) that the managers of the center might think about these kids as “inspiring,” but it was nice to see that the main end there is their happiness and well-being. I honestly iimagined the place to be a lot bigger before we went there, but I feel like this size is probably the best for the children.

Trip to Cerecares // Ewa Oberska

Having been looking forward to the trip to Cerecares from our first class when it was announced, actually being able to see that place was a great experience. It was my first time to visit a facility of that kind. I did my best in order to keep a clear mind and go there without any presumptions. What helped was also the fact that I had never seen a similar facility therefore, I did not have even a point of comparison.

Probably the most significant thing that I experienced was seeing the children play and live, just as everybody else, except they had different adjustments made to ease their circumstances. The facility did not resemble what most people imagine it to look like – quite the opposite. However, I could sense the care that all children were surrounded with and it showed, for instance, through the custom made chairs, beds, etc., to fit individual needs.

One thing that I believe is also worth mentioning is the very strong mix of feelings that I experienced while at Cerecares. Seeing the children with cerebral palsy live, learn and play was a very satisfying sight. We have seen a few films made based on the residents’ stories which were quite moving. I was not sure if I should be happy, sad, compassionate, amazed. I definitely did not want to behave in an inappropriate way therefore, I tried to remain as neutral as possible. At one point, I also had the impression that we resembled a tourist group just staring at those children living happy normal lives as if they were a kind of a phenomenon. I knew that was not the case, but I was very conscious about behaving in a proper way and avoiding giving them that impression.

An important thing that the trip gave me was also the research that I felt compelled to do on cerebral palsy, as I could not imagine going into the facility without having a good idea of what it really means. I believe that the trip to Cerecares was one of the truly precious experiences that I have gained in my academic career in Shanghai.

Class 5: Case Study In Progress – In Class Exercise

This class we bumped ideas about our case study within groups. Me and Ewa picked the case of the 53-year-old man who wants to communicate with his family and friends with only head and shoulder movements. With such limited functions our case study subject possesses, we really have very limited options. But the good thing is we can start from narrow and specific, which gives us the chance to dig deeper what we can do about a particular function.

We started with the idea of allowing the man to express basic needs by pointing at some specific pictures. With the picture board that is available on market, we though about making an equipment giving out laser that the man could wear on his head so he can possibly control the laser and point at the picture he wants. But this idea doesn’t seem very exciting. So we thought about other possibilities. Knowing that the man can also lift his arm, separately, we thought it would be cool to utilize all these functions. So we came up with the idea of head mouse. Head mouse is also something actually exist. But by customizing how it works to accommodate our subject, it can better apply this the case we are dealing with, and can potentially helps the subject to achieve as much as he can.

The head mouse is also an equipment that will allow the subject to express and and even function as a capable human being, just in a different way. So the subject will wear a device on his head with control the “curser”, and his left and right shoulder represent the left and right button on the mouse respectively. In other words, when he lifts his left shoulder, the left button of the mouse is pressed. So ideally with his head controlling direction and his shoulders pressing buttons, he could actually do whatever a person a do on a computer — typing, watching videos, playing games, etc. Louise helped a lot by pushing us further to think about the potential problems that might rise. So we asked questions about how we can solve the speed (tracking) problem, whether the man has computer skills, aesthetic concerns and more (please see attached pictures for more information, we will also elaborate more in our presentation next class). When those potential questions came up, we realized the importance to know more about the actual condition and thoughts about the subject. Until we know more about him, it can not be completely “customized” a device for him.

We also thought about the feasibility to combine the low tech laser pointing device and the head mouse together. Perhaps there could be device such as laser glasses or laser hat which can both gives out laser and function as a head mouse. With such a device, the subject can choose which function to use in different situations. In the critique part, Jiwon also gave the advice on how the head mouse could possibly work. Instead of our initial idea of using motion/vibrate sensors to sense the movements of shoulders, Jiwon suggested a device with two long strings for example, which the subject can wear on his head. So when he lifts his shoulder the two side would be touched. We thought this is also a good idea.

We are happy about our progress we made in class this Thursday. We also listed down dozens of questions we would like to answer for ourselves before we actually decide the final device we want to make. So now we are going to do some more research on the ideas and work on details.


(The first picture is our board of brainstorming in class, and the second is some questions we would like to know about the subject.)

Feeling Meets Testing, How to Switch Adapt a Toy, Field Trip:Cerecares

Feeling Meets Testing:
“The only way to experience an experience is to experience it. (139)” The point of prototyping is not just to see how the object functions, not just the technical details that matter. It’s important to see if the object is comfortable to use, not too complicated for an ordinary person or meets the needs of the targeted consumer layer, is logical, etc. It’s important to experience not just pulling the trigger itself, but what comes after that.

How to Switch Adapt a Toy:
It looks very easy, to witch adapt a toy. I don’t really believe I could do it less than 15minutes though, to be fair.

Field Trip – Cerecares:
I really liked that they involve so many volunteers in the process, I think it’s important for social development to not meet the same people everyday, but get more diverse social interaction with a variety of people. It was also good to see to realise that they weren’t very sad, we shouldn’t feel sad for them. Just because their lives are different from ours, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are worse.

Every day Technology Use Chart 1&2, Aimee Mullins talk

Everyday Technology Chart 1

I thought at first I don’t use that many devices  day, but then I realised I use a few but that all the time. I may use my laptop just a few times a day, but I never turn it off, because I may need it suddenly for something urgent. In the past I’ve tried to keep Shabbat, so I didn’t use/touch anything electricity related and it was then when I understood: it’s impossible to live with out them. We turned on the lights before it started so we had light all time, when we were in a hotel we requested keys instead of the cards, even in the hotel there was a Shabbat lift that stopped on every floor so you don’t have to push a button. So even though, practically I didn’t use anything, technology was still crucial part of my life, supporting me.

The device I chose is the fridge/freezer.

  1. Without hearing:
    You just walk up there, open the door, grab what you need/put in what you need, and close the door.
    1: It is very easy to use but
    1: Without hearing you don’t know if you closed the door well, or if you kept the door open for too long. Additional lights could be added, so the fridge would give a visual signal, not just sound.
  2. Without seeing:
    You just walk up there, find the door knob, open the door, and the problem: in communal fridge, people put away other people’s things, making it impossible to distinguish between the bags and food boxes other students put in.
    1: even though, the device itself is easy to use,
    1: the solution should be equally easy: create a fixed space for the person, just a corner, so it will be easier to find things.
  3. Without Walking:
    You roll there, open the door, grab what you need/put in what you need, and close the door.
    1:Easy to use but
    1: in this case as well, people may put your things to the top shelf where you can’t reach it. Again, a fixed space on the bottom shelves should be the solution.
  4. Without hands:
    You walk there, somehow get a chair with you, try to open the door while sitting, grabbing anything you need, shut the door.
    5: Without strong hands, it’s almost impossible to use the fridge. The door is closed too tight, getting anything out from the drawer is almost impossible, getting anything from a higher shelf is impossible.
    5: I couldn’t think of a good solution, prosthetics don’t have that much strength to open a fridge door. Open/closing is sort of out of question, but some sort of grabbing would help a lot. 

Aimee Mullins Talk:
I love how she compared her prosthetics to art and poetry: it’s important to understand that in today’s world aesthetics is just as important as functionality.

Class 3&4 Response

1.Field Trip Response

I went to Cerecare Center with very little pre-knowledge about it. I don’t know what kind of organization it is, what kind of kids they take care of or who the founder is. All I know was that this is a place where I would meet some disabled kids that I’ve never seen in person of my life. So I was surprised and impressed by what I saw, heard and experienced at Cerecare, partly because of my lack of any knowledge about it, but also because what they are doing really moved my heart. So many things were out of my expectations. I didn’t expect that the care center to be located in a neighborhood, that there were only 16 kids and the staff were double of the number of the kids, and that the founder herself suffered from cerebral palsy. 

The center wasn’t big, but the tour given by the girl staff was quiet informative. The computer room and room for Tuina (Chinese massage) left a deep impression on me because it was said that some of the cerebral palsy kids, when they grow up and have the according abilities to operate a computer/do massage, they can be offered a job here. Meanwhile in the computer room, a boy who is used to be taken care of here was doing photoshop (as I recognized) for the center. It seems to me that the organization has created a sort of sustainable cycle which would allow kids being taken care of further to take care others in the future. And if they are working for the center, they will also take the responsibility of massaging the kids and other things.

Another thing that impressed me was how much attention each kids gets at Cerecare. Since there are only 16 kids and 30+ staff members, their schedules for rehabilitation, study and activities are all very carefully individualized. Also there will be periodically evaluation for each kids and based on their progress adjustment will be made to their further schedules. We asked the staff if the kids will have the chances to learn academic stuff, such as maths and english. The staff said that if their capabilities have reached to the level those courses will be included in their daily schedule as well, which I think is great. I also asked the staff whether the full time staff here are social workers or paid. She said that all of them are paid,but at a minimum wage in Shanghai. I was wondering how those staff feel about that. Through my conversation with the staff, I learned more about the operation of the organization, how policy changes affect them and more.

The most moving (or I would say interesting) part is when they showed us the videos. They were certainly good videos and are very informative. I was impressed by the story behind Cerecare, the old lady and her sister, but when it came to the daily activities of the kids at the center and the story of the adopted boy, everything that adds to the story itself was just a little bit too much… I know we were in the mood but when the music went on it just made people want to cry. While I understand the videos should serve as something to gain the center publicity and even attract donations, I am wondering how appropriate to use those “tricks” (perhaps they didn’t intend to do that) to add the effects to it.

And it was also kind of a pity that we didn’t get to interact with the kids, which is totally reasonable because we didn’t get any training. But it would be cool if we could watch longer when the volunteers were playing with them. Perhaps that will help with generating ideas etc.


2. Response to video: How to Switch Adapt a Toy

This video just shows me how easier it can be to make something more assistive then we originally think. I always think that to make something that a disabled person can use might involve a lot of hard work — you might need to design a totally different device to change most part of the original one. But it seems like there are more that we can do by simply adding and taking away a part, for example. But still, even though it seems easy to just attach a switch to the toy the process is still a little bit intimidating to me because i am terrible at playing with wire and electrons. I am excited (also nervous) to see how it is like when we get to get our hands on this Thursday.


3. Response to Design Meets Disability: “Feeling Meets Testing”

While I agree with the saying that the only way to design an experience is to experience the design, I am wondering to which extent we can experience as the target users do, especially when they are disabled. It’s true that we might successfully restrain some of our body functions to be as close to the user who the design is supposed to help, but what if the particular loss of function is something that we can not imitate? In this case how do we feel the design? This leads me to think about the case study that I chose, in which the old gentleman lost his communications abilities and needs some assistive devices to help him communicate with his family and friends. While we can certainly restrain ourselves from using language or gestures to communicate, it seems really hard to be experience when the old gentleman will feel tired if using his eye movement to communicate. It seems that it is always better to let the user actually experience himself so the designer can improve the prototype gradually. Just like how Minatsu (I don’t know how to spell her name) lives closely with that lady who lost her arms, so they can constantly test the 3-D printed shoulder and modify it. By saying that I am not suggesting that it is not necessary or important to experience the prototype the designers themsELVES. It is definitely helpful to test the prototype with experiencing it oneself first, and perhaps working closely with the user can be the next step to make the design better.