Morton Kesten Universal Design Competition 2014 Winners

Students from across the state submitted designs to a juried competition as part of the Morton Kesten Summit, Designing California’s Future: Aging in Place Innovations. The works used principles of Universal Design that support aging in place to either re-conceptualize an interior or develop a new product for use at home.

Read below for summaries of the 2014 winners.

1st Place Winner: Trevor Myers’ – Improving the Eye Drop Experience
2nd Place Winner: Stephen Barbour and Lori Kenuk – Intella-Bell
3rd Place Winner: Naoya Nick Ogura – Shower Cane Concept

First Place Winner, Trevor Myers’ Eye Drops: Improving the Eye Drop Experience

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TREVOR MYERS

EYE DROPS: IMPROVING THE EYE DROP EXPERIENCE

Design Process:

I arrived at redesigning eyedroppers after many interviews regarding difficulties with packaging. The amount of issues people had using medications, foods and everyday items was surprising. Around the same time a friend and his mother had eye surgery. After seeing the problems they had with the whole process I knew what I wanted to dive into.

The surgery was quick but the aftercare proved to be problematic. They needed to take multiple kinds of eye drops at different intervals. The labels were hard to identify, the cap was difficult to open and the bottle was hard to squeeze making it very difficult to dispense the proper medication.

Market research proved that my friend wasn’t the only user having these difficulties. There are many aftermarket products that help users aim drops into their eyes and at least one to squeeze drops out of bottle but these only solved one problem and with varying degrees of success. Patent research showed people have been trying to solve the problem of getting drops into the eyes for decades but little to nothing was found on trying to make the container itself easy to identify, open and squeeze.

Ease of identification is very important to eye medication users, who sometimes have difficulty with vision. Users need to be able to easily identify their correct medication and be sure that they don’t mistake it for a similar container. In researching eye drop issues I came across reports of people mistaking super glue for eye drops. A call to California Poison Control confirmed that people making this mistake are more common then you might think and, “a big problem”.

Getting foam prototypes into the hands of users was extremely helpful in determining what shapes were easy to grip, open and close. Many eye drop users are elderly and are more likely to have limited hand dexterity. After preliminary user testing another prototype made of flexible 3D printed material confirmed the new design was easy to squeeze.

Manufacturing feasibility was an important issue to me. These items are short lived and users are already paying for surgery so the cost needed to be kept low. I meet with professors knowledgeable in manufacturing throughout the process and kept the design of the bottle and cap to a shape that could still be blow molded. This allows for a low unit price and use of recyclable materials.

Design Description:

I focused on improving identification and ergonomics. Icons were created using simple shapes, with heavy line weight and the already approved FDA color coding for eye medications. These icons are easier to remember than the names of medications. The combination of the symbols and color reinforce the identifier for most users and prevents issues for the color blind. Making the icons tactile by raising them or including braille would further reinforce this information. Their heavy line weight and hollow center makes them easy to distinguish even with poor eyesight.

The icons are repeated on the top of the package as well so the prescription label doesn’t cover up the identifier. This allows for important information to be left on or inside the package instead of trying to fit it on the bottle in print too small to read. The icon and colors are repeated on the bottle to prevent confusion once out of the package. Additional icons were created on the back of the bottle to allow users to write down the number of drops per dose and number of doses per day.

The new cap gives users a much larger area to grip and twist on and off while preventing it from rolling away. The split bottle design requires less physical force allowing medication to be dispensed with less sustained physical effort while distinguishing itself from non-medication bottles like super glue. The split also prevents the bottle from rolling away and becoming lost or contaminated. The indents on each side tell users where to squeeze and helps them grip. In most cases single hand use is now possible, allowing for proper eye drop technique even with limited dexterity.

Second Place Winner, Stephen Barbour and Lori Kenuk, Intella-Bell

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STEPHEN BARBOUR AND LORI KENUK

INTELLA-BELL

Design Process:

The Intella-Bell, a wifi-enabled, cloud-controlled doorbell for home automation design process, is intended to be a product that integrates universal design concepts, functionality, and esthetics.

Functionality: The Intella-Bell prototype allows home or business residents to automate their doorbell. It gives owners the ability to fully customize how they are notified that a guest has arrived, through a free cloud-service If This Than That (IFTTT). IFTTT allows many output options or actions, such as sending a text message, email, tweet, turning on/off lights in their home, activating the thermostat. etc. Setup is easy and requires no wiring in the home (besides a power cable) and can seamlessly integrate with any existing home automation devices. This gives Intella-Bell the ability to be used in locations not feasible for traditional door bells. Intellabell has two requirements to operate, a wifi network, and a power source. No service fees or subscriptions are required to operate.

The Intella-Bell was designed to integrate environmental sustainability and esthetic appeal. The casing for the bell prototype, is made from reclaimed iPod retail packaging which can be recycled. The case utilizes LED lighting, which takes little voltage to power. The components inside the prototype are modular, which allow reusing and recycling of the parts. The ability to for the user to utilize existing devices for output i.e. cell phone, tablet, computer, reduces the cost and environmental impact of device ownership. Additionally, future prototypes could utilize 3d printed plastic casings from PLA, a corn-based plastic that is compostable.

Esthetically, Intella-Bell allows the user to customize the LED output color. The device utilizes RGB LEDs that are easily adjustable to any color combination/shade the user desires. Additionally, the bell’s form factor is compact and minimalistic in design, blending well with many exterior styles. Further production with custom 3d printed cases, would further minimize the form factor of the device.

The total cost to fabricate the Intella-Bell prototype was $133. This price reflects the high cost of the modular (solder-free) components inside, which are utilized for rapid prototyping. Therefore, the cost of production could be reduced significantly by designing and fabricating custom integrated components, at an estimated cost of $70.

Intella-Bella Logic Schematic

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Third Place Winner, Naoya Nick Ogura, Shower Cane Concept

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NAOYA NICK OGURA

SHOWER CANE CONCEPT

Design Process:

When I saw the challenge and I ruminated on what a well-designed bathroom looks like, the inherent dangers of bathroom use dominated my thought process.

Although I am only a first year occupational therapy student and have very limited knowledge regarding universal design and aging in place, I have heard that bathroom falls are one of the most dangerous risks many older adults face as they opt to live at home. Many universally accessible showers have shower seats and grab bars, but I wondered whether a waterproof shower cane could further assist people in independent bathing. For example, my grandmother, who suffered from progressively weakening muscle strength, could have used the cane when transferring from the undressing area to the shower space. Because of their mobility, shower canes can provide stability when grab bars are absent or improperly positioned, and can assist with maneuvers to and from the showering area in larger bathrooms.

A cane, however, is not universally useful, so I decided to fuse it with a bathroom stand. Because the shower cane and stand can be repositioned, it eliminates the need for people to reposition, reach, or bend down in the shower to access toiletries. Theoretically, this should lower activity demands and reduce the probability of bathroom falls.

This concept was born out of my concern for the gap in stability equipment currently available bathrooms; it seems like even people with slight concerns regarding stability must opt for a restricting shower chair. I hope the shower cane provides an alternative way of engaging in the occupation of showering, giving older adults and others a more flexible method to completing their ADLs. 

Design Description:

The shower cane is a stable, four-legged cane and stand. It will be made from recycled, toughened plastic to keep it light, but the legs will contain some embedded metal components inside to stabilize it. Each of the legs have anti-slip cane ends for shower use.

The tray at the top is also made from recycled plastic. The tray comes with two built-in, refillable pumps, which will reduce wasteful consumption of shampoo and conditioner bottles. The fixed positions of the shampoo, conditioner, and soap ensure easy and reliable access not only for those with visual or cognitive difficulties, but also for typically developing individuals with soap in their eyes. The tray can be locked into the cane at different heights, making it accessible to multiple age groups; in multigenerational homes, additional trays can be bought and attached at lower levels for children.

The cane comes with two standard grips, but the horizontal grip can be removed to attach a custom grip that suits the needs of the primary user.

The shower cane can be stored in the most open area of the bathroom, where an elderly person with needs for stability assistance may use it during undressing and dressing. The cane can then be used as the user transfers into a (hopefully no-threshold) shower. There, it can be positioned for comfortable toiletry access, reducing the need for the user to navigate in the slippery environment. Upon completion of the activity, the cane can be used to assist in transferring out of the shower and will be left in the undressing area for the next person.