Walking aid for the elderly comes with a box for carrying their furry friends

Humans seem to be wired to be social animals, and that is sometimes a difficult problem for certain people. Loneliness affects everyone, but the pain can become more acute for people who are more advanced in age and who find it hard to develop new relationships because of limits to their mobility. Pets have become a solution for some of the elderly folk, but that, too, comes with its own puzzles to solve. People advanced in age are often advised to still go outside as long as they are able to, but they are hesitant to leave their furry friends at home as well. Solving multiple related problems can be a daunting task, but this walker concept pulls it off in a way that is both simple and effective.

Designer: Feng Chang

There are definitely plenty of walking aid designs, some even serving multiple functions. Some are just a step above crutches that you have to lift to move forward, while others come with wheels that increase mobility at the expense of some stability. Some come with small seats for the user, and others have baskets to hold their things. This particular walker concept combines some of these to present a more agile yet safe aid that has room for your pet when you go out.

The most conspicuous part of this walker is the large box that serves as your pet’s mobile home. You can simply slide the door on top to let the little furry friend in or out, or you can keep it close so that they don’t jump out suddenly. Of course, there are vents that allow the pet to breathe easily while comfortably confined in there.

The walking aid itself has a few aspects that help it rise about common designs. The handle, for example, travels in almost all directions, giving the user the freedom to grip it any way they prefer. There’s a brake button underneath the handlebar that will prevent the user from falling over or sliding. The front wheels also have LED lights above them that can be recharged via a USB-C slot on the opposite side, offering additional safety, especially in darker areas.

This walking aid concept hits two birds with one well-designed stone to help make elderly lives a bit more enjoyable and meaningful. It offers a convenient way for them to bring their beloved pets with them for a walk while also providing mobility and safety for themselves. And while the walker is primarily designed for very old people, anyone with limited mobility and a small pet can still benefit from this idea, at least if it ever becomes a real product.

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Smart home device concepts empower visually-impaired members of society

Our homes and appliances are becoming more powerful, but they are also becoming more complicated. Many interfaces are fortunately being reworked to simplify our interaction with these devices, but almost all of them still require a clear view of what the interfaces are. Sure, there are voice commands nowadays, as well as AI, but as any smart homeowner has experienced, these aren’t always fast or reliable. Unfortunately, all these new interfaces, even the minimalist ones, tend to cut off those with vision disabilities, depriving them not only of enjoyment or convenience but also of a sense of confidence and security in their own homes. It doesn’t actually take much to design with accessibility in mind, and as these three smart device concepts show, such creative designs might be useful or even fun for those who can see perfectly as well.

Designer: Jaehee Lee, Byeonguk Ahn, Minseok Kim

Many smart devices today tend to value aesthetics or functions too highly without considering how those would negatively impact the experience of people who are either blind or visually impaired. Some have too many buttons or have buttons that are all shaped similarly, making it difficult to tell by touch which one is which. Worse, there are those that use only touch controls on flat glass surfaces, which are completely useless unless you can see their marks. Beyond Sight is a collection of concept designs that address these flaws by using unambiguous motions and shapes that actually look fun to use, regardless of the state of your vision.

A smart speaker, for example, uses simple taps to play or pause the audio. Volume is controlled by sliding a ball up or down a pole while changing tracks involves turning the dial at the top. For people who can’t see or can’t see clearly, these definite tactile controls leave no room for guessing their functions. For those that can see what the speaker looks like, the design adds an element of fun and play to a device that has almost become too utilitarian these days.

The smart remote control might look and feel like a toy flashlight, but its polygonal shaft does more than provide a good grip. To change channels, you roll the device to one or the other side. To turn the TV on, you simply put the remote down from a standing to a lying position. The head of the device is a dial that you can turn to adjust the volume, and a large button lets you summon your voice-controlled AI assistant to do the more advanced functions that the remote doesn’t support. Admittedly, the rolling gesture might be a bit cumbersome, especially if you need to go through many channels quickly.

Lastly, a timer imitates the primary mechanism of rotary phone dials of the past so that people can slip their finger into the large hole and read the time in Braille. Setting the timer involves just turning that dial to the desired amount of time in 1, 3, 5, 10, 15, 30, and 60-minute intervals. The circular surface of the device slopes down toward that hole, easily guiding the finger to where it needs to be.

For those with visual impairments, the designs of these concept devices give them enjoyment and security in a home that’s increasingly becoming impersonal and intimidating for them. For those that can see clearly, the devices’ designs give them a toy-like character that hints not only at their ease of use but also at their fun controls, proving that accessible designs can truly benefit everyone.

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Office furniture concept was made with accessibility front and center

We’ve seen the birth of a new kind of computer chair, one that integrates not only the computer but even the monitor as well. While these gaming-oriented behemoths are equal parts impressive and bewildering, they are, like most office and computer furniture, made for the majority of able-bodied people, to the exclusion of those with physical disabilities. This latter group often needs more specialized equipment, but few actually design office furniture with accessibility as the top priority. In contrast, this furniture concept was made specifically for people with physical disabilities, and it creatively combines ideas and mechanisms from existing products or systems in order to create something that is new yet also familiar to the people who will be using them.

Designer: Divyanshu Garg

There are many types of physical disabilities and impairments, but for those who can still do some form of office work or another, the most common type is a walking disability. These people can still work with their hands and even use a computer, but their mobility is hampered, making it difficult for them to go places. Some even have to use wheelchairs, which could be a major obstacle to productivity and comfort, even at home. There are, however, also plenty of tools and devices designed around this kind of disability, but very few are meant to make office life more bearable or even more enjoyable.

This office furniture thesis tries to combine some of these features with other mechanisms that people from all walks of life might be familiar with. Everyone will want proper lighting and a comfortable chair, for example, but not many of these are made for those who aren’t able to walk. In this concept, for example, the chair shifts forward to facilitate moving from the chair to a wheelchair, something that is already used in cars made for accessibility.

The person, however, might not even have to move at all, presuming the office, home, or facility is built with a system that can move the furniture around. The concept allows for a motorized track running across the ceiling for that very purpose, like trains on a rail. There’s also a desk that pivots and slides in and out as needed, similar to those chairs used in some classrooms. The entire ensemble is enclosed in an open cubicle shape with smart glass that can go transparent or opaque, depending on whether the person inside needs visibility or privacy.

This is admittedly a rather ambitious design, but with the exception of the motorized ceiling track and privacy glass, it might actually be possible to implement. The thesis does at least demonstrate how an accessibility-focused design process can make a huge difference, one that could ironically benefit even those without disabilities in making their office life a bit more convenient and comfortable.

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This discreet device helps blind people read voice memos with their fingertips

There is a veritable wealth of technology available at our fingertips, from smartphones to hands-free voice assistants to AI that can create convincing (or deceptive) works of art. Amazing as they might be, not everyone is able to utilize these technologies that make human life more convenient, especially when it comes to things that you need to see to be able to use. Visually impaired people are among those disenfranchised by many of these common technologies and devices, and they actually make up a large part of today’s population. Even something as simple as taking notes for recalling later can be a frustrating process despite modern technology, but this simple-looking device concept attempts to put those technologies to work in a very inconspicuous way.

Designer: Seunghyun Ko

We do have quite a few devices and services today that don’t require vision to use. Voice-controlled smart assistants, for example, give feedback via voice as well and offer auditory cues instead of notifications on screens. Of course, they can also take voice notes for yourself that you can ask them to play at a later time. Unfortunately, that kind of interaction isn’t always possible, especially in public places where you might not want other to hear that memo to yourself, or it might not be possible to hear the voice note in the middle of a noisy environment.

TEXT.ure offers a solution that is both simple yet ingenious, combining several existing technologies into a single design that could significantly improve the quality of life of visually-impaired people. In a nutshell, the user records a voice memo onto the device, and it uses speech recognition and perhaps a pinch of AI to translate that memo into Braille. Inside the device is a grid of dots that can be raised or lowered to form the corresponding Braille characters so that the user can read the note later in private.

The idea might sound simple but the execution is quite elegant. TEXT.ure comes as a square device with rounded corners and smooth surfaces. It opens up into two parts, revealing the Braille mechanism inside. The shape is reminiscent of the general form of notepads, or at least how blind people might perceive it through their fingertips.

A great deal of attention was poured into the texture and tactile experience of the device, especially since visually-impaired people rely heavily on their sense of touch. The use of plastic, though questionable, is meant to convey feelings of lightness and softness, while the silicone carrying strap makes gives one an assurance of flexibility and durability. The fabric that covers the hinge connect the two halves also give a warm sensation. The few physical controls that the device has are all located at the edges and are clearly marked so that they can be easily distinguished and manipulated with a single touch.

TEXT.ure might sound and look like a simple device, but its minimalism belies the power that it gives to people who might feel powerless even with today’s technologies. Being able to quickly dictate a note to oneself and be able to read it later with privacy isn’t something that is easily available to visually-impaired people. It’s unfortunate that such devices still exist only in the realm of concepts, but hopefully designers and engineers will be able to come together and build something like this soon.

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Sony debuts its first ever accessible gaming controller at CES 2023

As a part of the CES 2023 presentation, Sony has announced its foray into the accessibility option for the ecosystem to customize to the needs of people with limited motor control. The Japanese electronics giant revealed it is working on a new accessibility controller kit for PS5 codenamed “Project Leonardo” to give disabled gamers equal strategic advantage as normal players.

Microsoft is already mindful of such special requirements – the Xbox Adaptive Controller is a good example of it. Taking leaf out of its competitors’ book, Sony has collaborated with organizations like AbleGamers, SpecialEffect and Stack Up to fine-tune the project.

Designer: Sony

By the look of things, the kit comprises circular gamepads lined up with buttons and directional keys. All of them are customizable, giving players the ability to create the best-suited gamepad. Each one them can be mapped precisely and the hardware bits swapped easily for hassle-free use. The modular controller can be used standalone or paired with DualSense controllers. Two Leonardo controllers and one DualSense can be synced together to make a complete gamepad for PlayStation 5 console.

The controller will address problems including “difficulty holding a controller for long periods, accurately pressing small clusters of buttons or triggers, or positioning thumbs and fingers optimally on a standard controller.” For example, the split, symmetrical design repositions the analog sticks much closer or farther. This means the controller can be positioned flat on a table or wheelchair tray for ease of use. The buttons can be mapped for up to three profiles, so multiple users can use them in tandem without any major hassles.

According to Sony designer So Morimoto, the controller is tested with more than a dozen designs already in conjunction with accessibility veterans. The split design came out to be the most effective for “free-form left/right thumbstick repositionability” that’s almost perfect. Also, the controller can accept a plethora of combinations of accessibility accessories for a never-before-seen aesthetic.

We can expect to see more options and even subtle design changes as the project nears the production stage. For now, there is no word on the release date or pricing yet, but more should seep in in the coming weeks for sure.

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These gloves help visually-impaired sports fans enjoy events even more

Much of what we do presume almost complete access to our physical and mental faculties. Most of the products that we make and buy are designed for the majority, which mostly means physically-able people in good condition. It is far too easy to take for granted how there’s a growing number of people in our society with physical handicaps or disabilities that become disenfranchised because of these assumptions. Given our reliance on devices with screens as well as genetic defects, many people are developing visual impairments that leave them out of enjoying many things in life. That’s especially true for sports, where one really has to see to be able to enjoy the action. Fortunately, this pair of gloves sports fans with visual impairments a chance to feel part of the game once more, utilizing the wearer’s heightened sense of touch.

Designer: Jithin Raj Mambully Rajan

The human mind and body are truly remarkable in how they compensate for lost senses or limbs, and that can be seen most especially among visually-impaired people, particularly the blind. They may not have Daredevil-like super hearing, but their fingers almost become their second eyes. Those well-versed in Braille can sometimes even read faster than those who have perfect eyesight. Unfortunately, that ability is wasted in sports events where visually-impaired people have to rely on commentators or friends for descriptions of what’s happening, something that’s not trivial to do, especially with fast-paced matches.

SENS is a wearable concept that takes advantage of the key strengths of blind or visually-impaired people when it comes to mapping the sense of touch to something totally unrelated. In a nutshell, the gloves contain three vibration motors, each that make vibration patterns on the wearer’s palms, one of the most sensitive parts of the human hand. There is also a box with buttons on the back of the hand with Braille dots used for controlling the gloves.

The idea is for the gloves’ motors to generate a unique vibration pattern that could be mapped to a specific action during a sports event, which was tennis, for the purposes of testing SENS. A fault would have a different pattern from a net hit, and a score on one side would be different from the opponent’s. Memorizing which patterns correspond to which moments does have a learning curve, but it is one that visually-impaired people might already be familiar with, allowing them to easily acclimate to other sports.

This inclusive invention does require other systems to be in place, like a sort of broadcasting system that wearers can connect to in order to receive notifications of those events. It might be easy for games like tennis, where ball-tracking technologies are already in use, but other sports events will require some more work. It’s still a better, more efficient, and more fulfilling alternative compared to hearing about each and every moment from someone else’s point of view.

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Air Chair is a wheelchair that easily integrates into airplane seats


As a “mobile” person who loves to travel, I can only imagine how difficult it is for persons with disabilities to travel on airplanes and go through airports. They have to rely on the assistance of their companions or the airplane personnel in order to board a plane and they have to keep their wheelchair in storage for the entire flight duration. If it’s a long-haul flight, they have limited mobility and accessibility. That’s why this new design concept for a wheelchair is pretty important to help them have a more convenient traveling experience.

Designers: aamer siddiqui and Ali Asgar

The Air Chair is a concept design for a wheelchair that can be used for an entire travel experience for the person with disabilities. It can be used to go through the airport and once boarded on the plane, it can be integrated into the aircraft seat without having to remove a seat or fold up the wheelchair itself. The idea also is to be able to use the inflight features of the plane and the airplane seat in the wheelchair so that they will still be able to avail of these features while sitting in their own chair.

They were able to create a design that will accommodate the wheelchair even if the plane has a narrow aisle. The seat dimension is 16.5″ which should be able to fit most aircraft seats, at least for the regular-sized plane sections of the Boeing 777-300 plane. The wheelchair itself slides into the seat and should be able to use features like the seatbelt, life vest, and even the inflight infotainment system that the aircraft provides. It has a C-shaped design and has spherical wheels for easy sliding into the seat and should fit like a glove. There’s also a locking mechanism that attaches to the metal bar under the chair that will make it stable and prevent any unnecessary movement the entire flight.

The Air Chair will give passengers with disabilities the freedom to move around on their own if they prefer to, from their home to the airport to the plane and off the plane. The current options that they have can often be demeaning and inconvenient. The next step for the designers is to make a working model and eventually, they should be able to pitch this product to the airline industry and even direct to customers as well. On paper, it’s a well-designed concept that will be able to offer users “freedom, mobility, comfort, and security” when they travel.

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8BitDo controller makes gaming more accessible for people with limited mobility

Many gaming advocates insist that gaming is something that everyone should be able to enjoy, not just your hardcore gamer, be it on console or mobile. While that may be true in general, the fact is that most games do exclude a set of people that might actually need these games even more because of their emotional and psychological benefits. People with physical disabilities, both in senses and mobility, have long been left out of mainstream games, but things are fortunately changing for the better. Game developers have become more conscious of adding accessibility options to games, and gaming accessory makers are designing more peripherals to empower people with special needs to level up their game. Case in point is 8BitDo’s new Lite SE controller that is making gaming for people with limited mobility more accessible, both in design and in price.

Designer: 8BitDo

Game controllers further push the image of gaming as something only for able-bodied people. They require a certain set of skills to even hold, and the games that are designed around them presume full control of hands and fingers. The basic shape of the controller hasn’t changed much over the years, and, just like computer keyboards, they don’t exactly have the most ergonomic design, let alone an accessible design for less capable people. Prodded by a loving father who wants to see his son experience the joys of modern games, 8bitDo co-engineered a controller that could be used by people with limited mobility without having to burn a hole through their wallets in the process.

Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller (XAC) was one of the first mainstream companies to put out a controller specifically for people with physical disabilities. It looked more like a DJ box merged with an overblown controller. It is huge and, at $100, not inexpensive, though it makes up for that with its customizability and features. It does also mean that it requires a bit more setup (and additional peripherals) to make it work with regular games.

The 8BitDo Lite SE, in contrast, is targeting a more specific crowd and with a specific purpose, to make gaming easier, accessible, and affordable for people with limited mobility. It comes in the traditional shape of a game controller, so it could still be used as a regular one. It is, however, designed to stay put on a table like a joystick box but takes up very little space compared to the XAC. A non-slip matte bottom prevents it from sliding while you push and pull, but it seems to be removable, so you can still hold it in your hand comfortably.

What really makes the controller more accessible, however, is how all the controls are located on its face. No more trigger and shoulder buttons that require more dexterity to use, just buttons you can easily mash. The controls, including the analog joysticks, are designed to offer less resistance so that it won’t take too much muscle strength to manipulate them. Plus, it will only set gamers or their families back by $35, a far cry from the XAC’s hefty size and price tag.

That said, the 8BitDo Lite SE only solves half the accessibility problem of games. Even with all the buttons on the front, many games are still designed right from the start without considering the needs of people with disabilities. Fortunately, that trend is slowly but surely changing, with more developers and studios adding accessibility options from the get-go. And just like with any accessibility feature, these tend to also benefit “normal” gamers, which goes to show how everyone wins when you design with accessibility in mind right from the start.

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A PS5 controller mod enables gamers to play with just one hand

Gaming should be for everyone, and a modder is making sure that the PS5 is exactly that, whether you have two hands or one.

Almost everyone enjoys games, even those that don’t formally consider themselves gamers. From kids’ games to cards games to casual games to hardcore console and PC games, these interactive activities have been bringing both joy and escape for centuries. Video games, however, haven’t exactly been accessible to all, even those titles that have specific accessibility features. Console controllers, for example, aren’t exactly designed for less physically able people in mind, but a one 3D printed add-on is aiming to change that without having to change the PlayStation 5 controller at all.

Designer: Akaki Kuumeri

Perhaps with the exception of joysticks that are better for very specific games, almost all game controllers are gamepads were designed for people that have full use of their two hands and ten fingers. And since games are designed around these two-handed control schemes, people with physical handicaps are often left out of these experiences. It’s more problematic in consoles like the Xbox and the PlayStation where alternative input devices are not supported unless made in partnership with large companies.

Fortunately, there is a growing awareness these days on accessibility in gaming, not just for the games themselves but also for controllers. Microsoft launched an Adaptive Controller for the Xbox long ago, but the PlayStation has yet to get something similar from Sony. There are quite a few DIY projects and mods that try to do something similar for Sony’s console, but the best thing about this One-handed DualSense is that you don’t need to modify the controller or buy anything esoteric. All you need is a 3D printer or a way to get the parts 3D printed.

With the adapter, you will be able to play a PS5 game using a regular PS5 controller with just one hand, no special hardware tricks or software features required. It doesn’t even matter if you’re left-handed or right-handed. Thanks to the PS5 DualSense’s symmetrical design, you can just mirror or flip the schematic before printing it, and it will still work. Bonus points, the mod uses PLA and TPU materials which are better for sustainability compared to other substances.

Admittedly, it’s also not the most ergonomic way to play a game with one hand, nor is it the easiest. Controlling the two analog joysticks requires that you play the controller on top of a surface, like a table or even your thigh, and move the controller in the direction you want the joystick to move. There are also extensions to bring the shoulder buttons all to one side, even allowing a gamer to easily press both L2 and R2 buttons with a single finger. The most cumbersome parts are the four U-shaped “linkages” that let you control the opposite face buttons, but thankfully they’re optional and don’t need to always be attached.

The add-on isn’t going to win any prizes when it comes to appearances, but its winning trait is its simplicity. Designer Kuumeri provides the files needed to 3D print the parts on your own or through some 3D printing service, and that’s pretty much all you need. You don’t even have to break open a PS5 DualSense controller to make it work. There are other designs available on The Controller Project’s page, and it’s quite encouraging to see how gamers and designers are becoming more conscious of the accessibility concerns of gaming.

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Disability-friendly Aircraft seat design by PriestmanGoode folds up to fit a wheelchair in its place

Design Studio PriestmanGoode, along with Flying Disabled and SWS Certification, has unveiled Air 4 All, a system that aims to revolutionize and democratize air travel for passengers with reduced mobility (PRM) by enabling powered wheelchair users to remain in their own wheelchair for the entire air journey. The aircraft seat features a folding design that allows the seat to conceal itself within the backrest, while a rail and lock on the floor lets powered wheelchairs slide in and lock into place, fitting in the area where the seat once was. The launch coincides with the 35th anniversary of the Air Carriers Access Act, passed by US Congress in 1986 to guarantee that people with disabilities would receive consistent and nondiscriminatory treatment when traveling by air.

Designer: PriestmanGoode for Flying Disabled and SWS Certification

PriestmanGoode mentions that the Air 4 All system is designed to be compatible with a wide range of airline seats and powered wheelchair types. Currently, the system has been designed keeping the narrowbody 2+2 configuration in mind, giving flights the ability to convert front row seats and install a wheelchair guidance and locking system to the aircraft. This configuration allows for up to two wheelchairs per row to travel on a single flight. A consortium formed by PriestmanGoodde, Flying Disabled, and SWS Certification will also be working alongside Sunrise Medical to establish those powerchairs that would be fit to fly, as well as to retrofit and create new standards for powered wheelchairs, thus enabling passengers with the most challenging disabilities to travel. Chris Wood MBE, Founder of Flying Disabled mentioned that “Air 4 All is the first system that has been developed jointly by a design agency, a certification body and with input from the disabled community. With a leading global wheelchair manufacturer as well as the subsidiary of a major airline on board to develop the product, it’s a truly collaborative project.”

In a press release, Paul Priestman, designer and Chairman of PriestmanGoode said “Air 4 All will usher in a step-change in the industry and finally offer equal access to comfort, safety, and dignity for all passengers. The biggest barrier in the past has been that giving greater space to passengers in wheelchairs would have reduced seat count and resulted in a loss of revenue for airlines. Air 4 All solves this problem and has the added benefit of enabling airlines to retain the design of their cabin on every seat, ensuring brand consistency and a cohesive brand experience for all passengers. Air 4 All will facilitate a smoother boarding and disembarking experience for PRMs and will also significantly reduce the number of wheelchairs that are damaged through poor handling.”

The Air 4 All seating system forms just one of many innovations by PriestmanGoode in the aviation industry. In 2019, the studio unveiled an eco-friendly in-flight meal tray made from non-plastic elements that were “either partially edible, reusable, soluble or biodegradable.” The studio has also extensively worked with Airbus as strategic design and innovation partners for over 20 years.

The Air 4 All has been granted a patent, and the first prototype of the Air 4 All system is expected in December 2021. The patent covers all types of wheelchairs across every mode of public transport. The consortium is looking for partners across the transport sector to develop the system for other modes of travel like rail and metro.

Designer: PriestmanGoode for Flying Disabled and SWS Certification