YouTransfer, YouDesign: A participatory approach to design assistive technology for wheelchair transfers

in Thesis / Dissertation


Transferring independently to and from their wheelchair is an essential routine task for many wheelchair users but it can be physically demanding and can lead to falls and upper limb injuries that reduce the person's independence. New assistive technologies (ATs) that facilitate the performance of wheelchair transfers have the potential to allow wheelchair users to gain further independence. To ensure that users' needs are addressed by ATs, the active involvement of wheelchair users in the process of design and development is critical. However, participation can be burdensome for many wheelchair users as design processes where users are directly involved often require prolonged engagement.
This thesis makes two contributions to facilitate wheelchair users' engagement in the participatory design process for ATs, while being mindful of the burden of participation. The first contribution is a framework that provides a modular structure guiding the participatory design process from initial problem identification and analysis to facilitating collaborations between wheelchair users and designers. The framework identifies four factors determining the need and adoption process for ATs: (i) People focuses on the target population, (ii) Person includes personal characteristics, (iii) Activity refers to the challenges associated with the task, and (iv) Context encompasses the effect of the environment in which the activity takes place. The second contribution constitutes a rich picture of personal and external elements influencing real world wheelchair transfers that emerged from four studies carried out to investigate the effect of the framework factors on the design process for ATs. A related outcome based on these contributions is a framing document to share knowledge between wheelchair users and designers to provide focus and promote an equal collaboration among participants.