Speaking with Dean and Barry was truly inspiring but as a designer, I wasn’t seeing any feasible product opportunities from the problems they addressed. Most of the solutions would include implementing some sort of radical system or completely redesigning the wheelchair itself. I did notice however that when Dean arrived in the classroom, he had his coffee on his lap as his arms were occupied rolling the wheels of his chair. His coffee was all over his lap. After the fact, I thought there must have been a way to avoid that small problem. That got me thinking back to Folk Fest with all the stuff I was carrying around that night. How would a physically disabled person possibly handle all that stuff an abled person can hardly handle? I remembered Barry talking about how he would only carry his essentials. His chair was big enough and there wasn’t much space to carry frivolous items.
This was a nice product-based route for me to go down but I didn’t want to be a designer of accessories. I would essentially be designing an accessory for a wheelchair that held things while allowing the hands to do other things. It would be a general carrying case for general items at any general festival and that was not very motivating. What were other opportunities? What other festivals do disabled people participate in?
Paralympics (http://www.paralympic.org/). This was the perfect opportunity to create a high-end product used by a team or individual to transport their equipment in. Because sports equipment is so expensive itself, athletes would have no problem spending a premium on a sleek, top of the line protective case. It would allow me to implement nice materials, some sort of anti-theft technology, team colours, Olympic branding.
I thought I had broken through the slump. I would still be designing an accessory though and I wouldn’t have many or any potential users to test with.
I kept searching and came across IBSA The International Blind Sports Association (http://www.ibsasport.org/). “For IBSA it is essential that the visually impaired sports movement has its own identity and there is an international federation working to promote sports specifically for blind and partially sighted boys, girls, men and women”. Reading through their site truly inspired me. The different ways in which they accommodate the athletes is so innovative and thoughtful and it made me want to be a part of their efforts.
I have decided to take Barry and Dean’s advice and move my focus to the visually impaired. I think there will be a lot of interesting challenges with addressing this demographic. The challenges needed to fuel a successful fourth year project.