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Industrial Design for Accessible and Adaptive Products

Industrial Design for Accessible and Adaptive Products

OVERVIEW

Our team at CHOi Design in Chicago has recently partnered with Juvo to create a line of adaptive bath chairs.

Juvo specializes in creating products for people with specific needs that “look better and work better than the alternative.” Founded by a man caring for his elderly father who couldn’t find products that could help him get around, he eventually gave up on the “old-fashioned, sad looking products that were available in the market.”

Our team is proud of the work we’ve done in collaboration with Juvo and would like to share some insight into our process, and the importance of creating more and more adaptive and accessible products. We hope more of these products will continue to come to market to help improve the lives of others.

To find out more about working with us on these products, visit our website.

KNOWING YOUR IDEAL CUSTOMER

As any product marketer knows, you need to have an ideal customer in mind when launching a new product. Your vision of your target user needs to be clear, and you need to be able to speak directly to that person.

But this ideal customer shouldn’t be considered only in the marketing phases. During product development, it’s important to keep your ideal customer profile in mind so your product meets their needs. Better yet, your product can respond to their needs, directly.

IDEAL CUSTOMER FOR ADAPTIVE PRODUCTS
There is no better example of what it means to be an ideal customer than thinking of adaptive product engineering and design. These products meet the needs of users with limitations in mobility, sight, hearing, or others.

As technology is developing and the cost of adapting products is getting lower, many designers—such as us at CHOi Design—have dedicated our time to developing products like the new line of Juvo chairs that improve the lives of others.

 

WHY THIS MATTERS

Our team wanted to offer insight into our design process in hopes that others will similarly invest time in such a process, and that we may connect with others looking to add adaptive and accessible products to their current line.


We believe that adding these products to the market will improve the quality of live for countless people, allowing them to live more comfortable, safe, and independent lives.

 

A HISTORY OF PUBLIC AWARENESS OF DISABILITIES

ADA AND PUBLIC SPACES

The passing of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990 brought more attention to the accessibility of public spaces (among other things) for those with disabilities.  

According to the adata.org, a person with a disability is defined as “a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity.” It also includes “people who have a record of such an impairment, even if they do not currently have a disability” and “individuals who do not have a disability but are regarded as having a disability”.

 

WEB TECHNOLOGY AND ACCESSIBILITY

Though the Internet has transformed the lives of many people, it may still be an unwelcoming place for people with disabilities. This article from the UX Collective outlines ways to make web technology more accessible for all users. Here are a few key points:

Color Contrast: Thinking about user interface (UI), you should make sure your contrast is high enough so that the colors are easy to distinguish— especially text. Before launching, check out how the site looks in black and white.

Focus: This allows users to navigate your website using only a keyboard, and can be used on items on a page like buttons, links, contact forms, etc.

Hover: Think of the Facebook “like” features that now include 5 options when you hover over the “like” button. This feature is accessible for users with only keyboards.

As more feedback is gathered from ideal customers using technology adapted for their unique needs, the technology will continue to evolve and improve.

 

THE FUTURE OF WEB ACCESSIBILITY

The UX Collective article states: “More than laws and compliance rules, is it not just human to make sure that our products can be more widely used?”

We’d certainly like to think so, though we think both web and industrial design has a long way to go in order to catch up with the public awareness of disabilities and how we can best accommodate people’s needs.

 

Thankfully, the passing of these laws and this awareness has brought much needed public attention to these issues facing millions of people around the world, and has allowed us to progress at a faster rate than in previous decades.

 

DESIGNING ADAPTIVE PRODUCTS

As technology continues to evolve at exponential rates, product developers interested in adaptive product design will have two types of tasks on their hands: creating new products in order to meet underserved communities, and improving products that already exist.

 

CREATING NEW PRODUCTS

There are many concerns that adaptive products can meet. Users with limited vision who still want to read text not specially designed for them may benefit from the Miracle Reader, which allows users to read books, magazines, brochures, they might have at home.

 

Users with limitations in hearing have traditionally needed to visit a doctor before getting a hearing aid, though companies like Empower have worked hard to bring these products to market so users can purchase them over the counter. Unlike a hearing aid a personal sound amplification product (PSAP) can be purchased without visiting the doctor.

 

INDUSTRIAL DESIGN TO IMPROVE EXISTING PRODUCTS

When it comes to industrial design, it’s not always about making products that can be used by everyone, but about making products that meet needs of a small segment of the market.

 

And in addition to the need for products using cutting-edge digital technologies, there is a major demand for products that improve upon older ones that were designed in an era where there was not much market competition for adaptive and accessible products.

The new line of adaptive bath products by Juvo and CHOi design is an excellent example of what this looks like. Here are five elements of the design process.

 

DESIGNING ADAPTIVE PRODUCTS

User Research: It is vital to listen to market demand and understand which products are most needed by users. Sometimes, this comes from a personal experience. Other times, it could come by collaborating with experts in the industry.

Juvo came to us with their product in mind, and based on their past success and their focus and dedication to their ideal customer, we went ahead with our process.

 

Differentiation:  When Juvo first approached us with their idea to design an adaptive bath chair, our major goal was to differentiate it from other chairs on the market that were uncomfortable, clunky, and not aesthetically pleasing.

We knew a stand-out product would not only be more pleasant to look at in the bathroom, but it would also allow the user to feel safer and more independent.

 Drafting: In the drafting and engineering process, it is important to think of every aspect of the customer experience—assembly, use, maintenance, etc. A comprehensive understanding of process, material, and existing products will make this process as thorough and efficient as possible.

Because we have close relationships with off-shore manufacturers, we are able to communicate easily and move quickly on assembling materials to build the product. 

Prototype Testing: Once a prototype is developed, everyone involved in the process—as well as users—gets together to test the product. When designing adaptive and accessible products, it’s important here that all aspects of use are tested.

The testing phase can be an open door to continue to make improvements  upon the product, and to get information about the best features that would be most helpful in marketing the product.

In the case of our adaptive bath chair, our infinity handle stood out as a feature that differentiated the product as well as made it safer and more comfortable—two key demands.

 To Market: Whether you do marketing in-house or you work with an agency, it is important to use the data from the whole design process to inform your marketing. From imagining the needs of your ideal customer to reiterating the information you learned through testing, tell the story of your product.

More information on features of our chair can be found on our website.

   

THE FUTURE OF ADAPTIVE AND ACCESSIBLE PRODUCTS

More research needs to be done on the market demand for these products and how companies can meet the needs of users with disabilities.


We predict the future looks good as materials lower in cost, technology picks up, and we are more connected than ever before. Being able to use technology and design expertise to benefit the lives of others is our passion, and we are grateful for the opportunity to partner with Juvo in bringing their competitive product to market.

Want to learn more about working with CHOi Design on your next program? See our work samples or connect with us.

Erika Davis
Researcher and Writer at CHOi Design Inc.