Saturday, March 10, 2007

Must-See Blog: Woogle Works

Woogle Works is a blog by product designer Wai Lam Wong, which focuses on design for people with disabilities. Oh, my, what a GREAT idea!

The picture above is of a design called "mouth artist." It is for people who have no hands but can use their mouth to hold an instrument for writing, drawing or painting. How many product designers even think of this population?

I am passionate about the topic of design for the disabled. This springs from two experiences I’ve had with being disabled--or, in my case, having a temporary loss of function. The first was when I was twelve years old and broke my leg skiing. I spent the better part of forever on crutches (my bones are slow to heal). My biggest problem at first was getting up and down stairs, a process that would have been made easier by Wong's "rocking crutch," which has a "foot" that flexes as our own do:

I also couldn’t do certain things while walking, such as carrying things in my hands. Every act of taking something somewhere involved removing my backpack, putting the object in, and putting the backpack back on. As an impatient twelve-year-old, this was incredibly frustrating. I would often ask someone, “Would you please carry this for me?” This resulted in a comment that I’d certainly become dependent since the accident.


Things like this really make me appreciate Wong’s addition of functional features to, for example, an arm sling:

Where you see the panda’s head poking out, there is an actual pocket sewn into the sling, allowing small objects to be carried. What a great idea!

My second loss of function was about five years ago when I had a very bad fall while hiking and shattered my wrist. As it healed, I had to do a lot of things one-handedly—and with my left hand (I am right-handed). When I could use it again, the wrist was very weak. So for a long time I couldn’t do things that take two hands. I couldn’t open the child-proof cap on a medicine bottle. Actually, I couldn’t even open a new box of cereal, a new music CD, or certainly not an electronic device encased in the plastic packaging they use these days. In short, I lived in a world designed for people with two functional hands, and I only had one.

All of this makes me appreciate some designs Wong is working on for doing things with one hand, like opening a pop bottle with a twist-off lid . . .

. . . and even riding a bicycle!

All of these things are wonderful. But one that is exceptional Wong’s commitment to inspire others to design for the disabled. He is working to put together a design competition in this area, and has already assembled a formidable team of judges for the event. What’s needed now is a sponsor, and I wish him the best of luck in finding one.

So today, kudos to Wai Lam Wong, a pioneer in a field that needs one!


No comments: