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Inclusive design – a student’s view: the Unity door handle

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By: Connor

Hello, my name is Connor Musoke-Jones. I’m an undergraduate student at Brunel University, London, studying industrial product design and technology. I’ve designed and developed a new concept for an inclusive door handle. I hope to succeed in national competitions and take my design to the next level: to be developed and manufactured in this country.

I believe true inclusive design should be used by everyone in the same way, excluding no-one. I’ve designed the Unity door handle to use its own geometry and ergonomics to support and guide the hand, requiring nothing more to use than a small amount of your own body weight. You can see it in my portfolio.

Currently, I’m on a year’s work experience in the Netherlands to gain knowledge about the industry and manufacturing before I complete my studies. While working, I’ll be preparing the Unity door handle to enter in design competitions like the Inventor Prize by Nesta, a global innovation foundation.

When starting to think about a design, I asked myself: “How would I use a door handle if I could not grab it, if I had no grip strength, even if I had no hand?”. I then observed and talked to people both with and without disabilities. I learnt about how disabled people find alternative ways to solve daily challenges. I also met groups of physios and OTs (Occupational Therapists) with my prototypes to talk through my ideas. This knowledge from both personal and rehab viewpoints gave me some priceless feedback. Having the constant involvement of the users' experience and knowledge made me always aware of the need for the design to be highly adaptive to the specific need of the user.

I also wanted to address two big issues within the disability world:

  1. the physical difficulties of everyday tasks
  2. the negative stigma attached to much of the specialist disability equipment available

Many people who could benefit from equipment designed for disability are reluctant to use it because they don't want to be labelled ‘disabled’, and therefore may struggle more than necessary. I believe a product designed with disabled and older people in mind should be equally desirable for everyone. The importance of the concept of inclusive design is, as Rica says, that it benefits everyone.

  • I recommend that other design students use the Rica inclusive design resources, which have links to university research and other work.
  • Also, Rica put me in touch with Adam Thomas from Design Matters, who’s been designing kitchens since 1980, and who in 2015 won the KBSA (The Kitchen Bathroom Bedroom Specialists Association) Accessible/Inclusive Designer of the Year Award. As a wheelchair user, he's a hands-on expert. Adam has helped me gain some great connections and useful knowledge to develop the Unity door handle.
  • And finally …as Rica is developing online product reviews, please let them know if you’ve adapted or ‘hacked’ mainstream products to suit your needs.

Please complete the comments section below! Thanks for reading.