Design Research | Product Development | Identity Design | Interface Design
Care for Chairs is a system developed to prevent manual wheelchair breakdowns within the first six months of use. We were partnered with Veterans Affairs in Pittsburgh within the division of the HERL (Human Engineering Research Laboratories) alongside a group of Carnegie Mellon MBA students. With a variety of partners, we developed a main goal of improving the experience of a wheelchair user by creating a tool that would help facilitate regular maintenance. Through extensive research and development, we came up with an accessible online tool that would teach and encourage independent function checks of their wheelchair. Through simple videos and tips, we have created a tool that can be used by all and make a significant difference in safety.
Veterans and their caregivers open the site to a clear and visual website that helps them step by step in the inspection of the wheelchair. You can either take it step by step to cover the entire wheelchair, or you can select a specific form of the wheelchair that you are finding problems with. It was important to provide images and videos that explain how to fix the wheelchair at the perspective in which the caregiver or Veteran understand exactly what they are looking at and how to fix it. The website includes every step, but also is a direct resource to their doctor and third party maintenance providing check lists and contact information to inform them if you cannot fix your wheelchair independently. Why is this important? Prevention of a wheelchair breakdown can save lives, but not many people know how to do it themselves. To avoid scheduling appointments, home visits and classes, Veterans can access all of the information they need from their own homes.
Decrease the number of Veteran's wheelchair breakdowns in the first six months. This problem is important because many Veteran's need assistive care, but not all can get the care they need as frequently as they should or do not know they need regular care.
We began by asking what the process is like, how this can be fixed, and who does this need to be directed to. From discussion with VA employees and team members, we found that a dramatic amount of wheelchair users have accidents in the first six months of using their wheelchair. The primary reason we found to relate to the problem was that Veterans were not maintaining the function of their wheelchair on a regular basis. Some couldn't see a technician, doctor and did not know how to fix it themselves. Many did not even know there was something wrong. There are some programs in development to teach "trainers who train" how to maintain the wheelchair, but was not being shared directly to users. We also carefully looked at the process of getting a wheelchair. How did it all happen, is it always the same, who are the primary stakeholders? We found that when you are described with a wheelchair, you go to a third party who sells and maintains wheelchairs. They fit you to make sure your wheelchair will fit you comfortably and safely. It is an extensive process that does not have a clear support system. We did not understand if Veterans went to their doctors, VA or some maintenance group to fix their wheelchair. All of these problems fed into our final system.
Visualizing our thoughts and research was the best way to understand, analyze and pick out important factors. We drew up the scenario of getting a wheelchair, who the stakeholders were and ideas for solutions. Visual and verbal brainstorming was a large part of the process. Once we visualized, we were able to find our target audience of Veteran wheelchair users, how to fix it and visual styles we needed to include.
Building upon making is the greatest key to designing. Iterations improve aspects of the problem you are solving. We made many digital iterations of screens, visual style and layout for the key parts of the tool. The wireframes were used to figure out the primary layout and use of the site. We used guidelines for the visually impaired to construct our color choices and typefaces. The identity was developed through observing forms of the wheelchair along with the site's name. Along with the visual aspects, we also built different ways of explaining how to maintain your wheelchair. We worked towards figuring out the clearest way to explain how a Veteran may go about maintaining their chair. We tried explanations, photographs and videos, which we later used as a whole in our final tool.