Balancing Exertion Experiences – Thoughts

Now this is one of the best written papers I’ve read in a long time. Generally, I’m scheming through papers to find the gist. This paper was very well written, approachable and kept me engaged the whole time.

That being said, the purpose of this paper was to describe a mobile exercise system that will allow people with similar fitness abilities/goals/levels jog together. Imagine if two people are jogging – one person most likely has a different fitness ability than the other. This generally results to one person jogging much faster to catch up (uncomfortable) or the other person jogging much slower to stay on pace with the other (not so great workout). This mobile system aims to address that. It consists of a heart rate monitor, a headset, and a small bag containing a mobile phone and a mini computer.
Each runner enters their target heart rate before they start the run, and the system calculates how hard they are working by comparing their current heart rate with their target rate. During the run, the runner who is working “harder” (by running closer to their target heart rate than the other person) sounds to be in front of the other person via the headset, and the other person sounds behind via the headset. If they are working at the same ratio, then they sound to be next to each other via the headset. This system previously used speed/pace as a way to determine who was working harder, but that doesn’t take into consideration people that are running uphill/downhill etc.

This system has many benefits. It allows people who are located physically away from each other to

  • Jog together and motivate each other
  • Socialize with different people who all like to jog
  • Work out at the same intensity even though they may be      doing different activities e.g one person jogging, and the other using a      stationary bike.
  • Compete with each other by trying to get “in      front” of the other person
  • Be empathic with each other because one person can slow      down if the other is panting too hard to keep up with the other.
  • Run with their favorite running partners regardless of      where they are physically located.

Overall, I think this is a very very useful tool, and a great paper. I’m really happy that the paper went into detail about the user studies and the purpose of the tool, instead of going into too much detail on the technicalities of the tool. One thing that isn’t clear in the paper is the purpose of the mobile phone, how the two people are communicating with each other (cellular network? Bluetooth? Wifi?), and some general network information on how all the components “talk” to each other network-wise. It also isn’t clear how much data the system consumes while in use, as this is important to the average user.


A systems approach to the modeling of racing wheelchair propulsion – Thoughts

One of the readings for this week “presents a systems model for racing wheelchair propulsion”. Essentially, it describes (in the form of equations) the factors that affect how quickly and efficiently a racing wheelchair will move (on the road and on an inertial roller) by examining the properties of the wheelchair and the human pushing the wheelchair. The properties to be considered on the chair includes the inertia and radius of the wheels and axles, bearing resistance of the hubs, the mass of the wheelchair etc. The properties of the human, as expected, were a little harder to describe because of how diverse the human anatomy is, however, the article puts into consideration the angle of the hand against the push rings, the force of the push, and how far the person pushes the push rings. All these factors will serve to determine the most efficient way for racing wheelchairs to be designed, and some metrics to better train athletes to achieve maximum speed. 

I think this article is really interesting, and opens doors to a lot of research. The theories have to be validated by actual user studies, and tools have to be developed to measure some of these metrics proposed by the paper, however, I feel that it’s a good start to a world of research that is yet to be explored.

Cook and Hussey Chapter 5 – Thoughts

This chapter goes over all the major funding sources available for assistive technology devices in the United States, and a few other countries like Canada, Australia, and countries in the United Kingdom. Here in the USA, there are several funding sources available for persons with disabilities,and the different programs have different eligibility criterion. There are public programs funded by the federal government (Medicare), and by the state and local governments including Medicaid, Children’s Medical Services, Tricare, Educational programs, programs for workers, programs for military veterans etc. There are also private sources on funding including private health insurance, self funding via loans etc. The chapter also goes over how to obtain funding depending on disabilities and ways to appeal if a funding request was denied.

Overall, this is a very good chapter for practitioners and patients that need to know the funding options available to them. It great that there are so many funding options available, but it might cause some confusion for people with funding needs. There are still lot of people that have disabilities because they don’t qualify for any of the funding options, but overall, it’s still a lot better than what some other countries have available to them.

Cook and Hussey Chapter 2 – Thoughts

This chapter describes the assistive technology system as “consisting of an assistive technology device, a human operator who has a disability, and an environment in which the functional activity is to be carried out.” It further describes this system using mainly the Human Activity Assistive Technology Model. This model serves as a guide in order to understand the lives/needs of persons with disabilities and has four major components – the human, the activity, the assistive technology, and the context (environment) that the factors exist in. The human “represents someone doing something someplace.” It takes into account the person’s abilities, skills, preferences and level of expertise as factors to be considered when designing assistive technology. The activity is simply the functional task that the human is trying to accomplish and their preferences for accomplishing those tasks. The context/environment takes account where the human is trying to accomplish the task. It takes account of the physical characteristics of the place e.g temperature, location, social norms, culture etc. All these factors have to be considered as equally important when researching and designing assistive technology to suit their needs.

This chapter makes me think that the basic idea of universal design of an assistive technology as fundamentally inadequate. Given how quickly people people with disabilities need this devices, how can we give them when they truly need, at low prices and a quick turnaround time? This makes the concept of DIY assistive technology even more appealing – people can design what they what, how they want and when they want it. The big challenge will be how will we provide them this platform to create these things for themselves, at a cost that they can afford? How do we convince an insurance company to pay thousands of dollars for a machine that can produce specialized walking canes for an individual, vs paying $20 for a generic one from the store?

Cook and Hussey Chapter 1.1 – Thoughts

This chapter defines Assistive Technology, and highlights the differences between Assistive Technology and other kinds of technologies. The most important thing to note is that in order for it to be considered Assistive Technology, it has to “increase, maintain or improve functional capability” instead of repair or rehabilitate the individual’s disability. The user of the technology also has to be considered disabled, in order for it to be considered an Assistive Technology. The chapter also characterizes Assistive Technology in many different ways like

  • Assistive vs Rehabilitative Technology: E.g Prescription glasses vs Laser Eye Surgery
  • Low vs high Technology: E.g Walking Cane vs Powered Wheel Chair
  • Hard vs Soft Technology: Tangible vs Intangible objects
  • Appliances vs Tools: The former requires little or no skill to operate e.g Microwave oven – the latter requires skill e.g Powerdrill
  • Minimal to Maximal Technology:E.g  Augmenting Devices vs Replacing function Devices
  • General vs Specific Technology: E.g Computers vs Hearing Aids
  • Commercial vs Custom Technology

The chapter also mentions Assistive Technology Services which it defines as “any service that directly assists an individual with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an Assistive Technology device.”

Overall, I think this was chapter was a good introduction to what Assistive Technology means as we understand it today. I wish some more emphasis was placed on Assistive Technology Services, as they are the main drivers behind what Assistive Technology means today and what it will mean tomorrow. I think the actual design of Assistive Technology tools/devices is the easy part; understanding what tools/devices will be effective for their intended function is where it all gets complex, and that’s the role of the Assistive Technology Service providers.


DMD – Fashion Meets Design Thoughts.

Designing for disability has generally emphasized discretion, while fashion design aims to project an outward image of the wearer. Camouflaging disability devices may cause a lack of self confidence of the wearer. Glasses/spectacles  is an example of an area that have succeeded in incorporating fashion’s principles and value into its design; hearing aids on the other hand have followed the traditional approach to the design of disability devices – making them smaller and more discrete. However, making these devices smaller and more discrete has impacted their effectiveness. Aimee Mullins, Jacques Monestier, and Hugh Herr are proponents of the idea that all medical devices and aids including arm and leg prosthetics should be a fashion statement according to the tastes of the wearer instead of something to be hidden. As with fashion, a one size fits all approach should not apply for designing medical devices as they are to be used in conjunction with the human body – and we come in all shapes and sizes. Adopting this approach involves inviting fashion designers into the design of disability devices.

Sincerely, I have never thought about medical devices in this way. The goal of medical device “designers”, as well as the general population has always been to make disabled people feel as “normal” as possible – like a human being without disabilities without much regard to their personal preferences. What does normal really mean? What truly make us unique are our individual differences, and our ability to express and represent ourselves the way we please. I hope for a day where picking out a new arm or leg for a disabled person will be as simple as picking out a new pair of boots or gloves; where picking up a new hearing aid will be as simple as buying a new set of headphones. Disabled people should not feel different from others, and incorporating fashion into medical device design will bring us one step closer into accomplishing that goal.