What did I learn from experimentation?

This is a post to reflect on my experimental pieces. Doing these honestly haven’t helped me at this moment in the project, but I know they will do when I carry my ideas through to the MA Project. By expressing my thoughts through materials and 3D forms, it allowed me to

The material experimentation also led me to my final prototype piece. I gathered together my ideas and research processes to recreate something that represents the information that I have researched over Project 2, that will be carried into and progressed further into the MA Project.

Not only have I experimented with materials, I also experimented on a personal level by using a wheelchair myself to understand the limitations and poor design. For this experiment, I went shopping at Tesco. I work at Tesco and not once has it crossed my mind that items or shelves are too high or too deep for someone, but once I had experienced this first hand it was obvious that there is a slight inconsideration when it comes to a wheelchair user and the design of a shop. Not only was shopping difficult, but I did get the sense of feeling invisible.  I am including snapshots of a short video of my journey around the shop to give you an insight into what it was like shopping at a different level.

 

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Experimental Pieces

Towards the end of Project 2, I looked back on the research that I had gathered and started to experiment with materials and try and replicate my findings through 3-dimensional models materials.

I haven’t used a wide variety of materials, but I have made different models using the same materials. These include cardboard, acrylic and my 3D Pen.

Here I was testing materials to see what sort of outcome I could come up with. I decided to use my 3D pen to create surface texture against cardboard, my reasoning for this was to try and capture the feeling of how a moving wheelchair might feel along different surfaces. Wheelchair users are faced with rough or complicated design in the modern world and what I am trying to portray with this idea is that designed shouldn’t have to be a rough ride for a wheelchair user, but more smooth.


In this model, I have used cardboard as the platform and casted clear acrylic to form the shapes. This model represents the limitations and inaccessible areas that wheelchair users are faced with on a day-to-day basis. The area within the white lines resemble a route that a wheelchair user may take, and the clear acrylic shapes resemble obstructions and blockages that may occur even on a simple journey. The sharpness of the acrylic shapes could maybe indicate the harshness of this reality.


 

The only material I have used for this model is cardboard, and by doing so it allowed me to manipulate the material in ways that I wanted. The idea behind this model is that of a wheelchair turning circle. On the bottom of the wheelchair, I have attached a lever which can be turned that will make the wheelchair pivot and give a miniature view of a wheelchair turning circle.

What is Accessibility? – My own personal experience

Accessibility The quality of being easily reached, entered, or used by people who have a disability. (Accessibility definition. Oxford Dictionaries (2018)

Accessibility. Every single day, every single one of us encounters an accessible building, path, shop, home. This isn’t an issue though if you are an able-bodied individual because we can walk up steps, through tight doors, up and down high paths or be dodging around people in shops… this to us is easy and accessible. But what about for a disabled wheelchair user? Accessibility is a tough area when designing for a wheelchair user, there are so many regulations which are mandatory and extra care is (or should be) put into designing for the disabled.

As part of this accessibility post, I am including primary research that I have done. In order for me to understand properly the difficulties that wheelchair users face, I got in a wheelchair and went shopping. This experience really touched me because it became apparent that the research and other peoples personal experiences I have looked at, is true. I genuinely felt invisible to other people just because I was at a different level to them – this made my passion for designing for disability stronger.

Here are some images taken from my trip to show the limitations I faced whilst doing this experiment.

This was a different but eye-opening experience for me because I am an able-bodied person; this really helped me to recognise the issues that limit a wheelchair user faces as well as recognising that with minor changes, full accessibility will live to its meaning.

An example of poor design…

A lot has happened since my last blog post and since this, my eyes have been open further to poor design for a wheelchair user.

So the last thing anyone wants to happen in their house is a water leak and the roof caving in… especially for a disabled user who feels most comfortable in their own home. After lots of stress, tidying, packing up, insurance companies, phone calls and interrupted plans, we finally had a plan of action sorted by disability insurers and we got moved into a hotel!

My partner’s mother (Victoria) and father (Martin) who uses a motorised wheelchair were faced with a challenge when it came to moving to the hotel, somewhere where they need to be comfortable, have enough room not only for the wheelchair itself, the turning circle, but also all the bags, equipment and medication that needs to be taken everywhere with them. Oh, and not forgetting our Service Dog, Sox!

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Sox the Service Dog (Milenkovic. A (2018)

After lots of phone calls with insurance companies, Victoria suggested to them a hotel that is perfectly suitable and accessible for them both to stay at. She explained that this hotel has wide door openings, a full flat level wet room, accessible bed and toilet… But after stating they had both previously stayed there with no issues, sadly the insurance company didn’t listen to the needs of the user and booked them into a hotel which wasn’t suitable at all, although it was advertised as a ‘fully accessible disabled room’.

So on arrival at the organised hotel, everything looked like it would be pleasant stay… the reception desk was in plain view and accessible, the bar was lowered by 2 steps, or there was a lift to go down to the bar but it was hidden away in a corner… why? It was all going okay until we got to room 121 on the ground floor, however, there was an issue as soon as we entered the room.

These images are part of my primary research and this is a first-hand experience to poor design.

Being put through a situation like this causes a lot of distress to both users. It isn’t easy or is almost impossible for some wheelchair users to adapt to a hotel room just like an able-bodied user can. If something isn’t right or is in the way then as an able-bodied user you can move it without a problem (if it isn’t too heavy or fixed down) but for a wheelchair user, this isn’t the case. Disabled access rooms are specifically designed to meet the needs of the user and help to make their stay as comfortable as possible. It is clear that in this situation, regulations haven’t been met to the full standard.

 

Images are taken from Mercure Bolton Georgian House Hotel (Milenkovic. A. 2018)

 

What could be done to help disabled people feel less invisible?

We have all at some point had an encounter with a wheelchair user, maybe whilst at the supermarket or shopping centres, public parks or just out and about. There will have been a time when you haven’t noticed a wheelchair user because they’re not at your eye-level and this will have caused distress to you… how do you think the wheelchair user feels? It’s easy for an able-bodied person to move around and cut past someone and be clearly visible, but for someone who uses a wheelchair, they have to be on constant alert in case someone doesn’t see them coming from the side or even head on and end up getting walked into or having a bag swung close to their heads…. This shouldn’t have to be a worry for someone who is trying to live their life as much as the next able-bodied person.

So, my aims for this blog post is to find inspiration from other wheelchair users to see how they make themselves visible