Category Archives: Design for Disability

Universal design of daily living products for the elderly and disabled.

Making Hearing Aids More Glamorous!

Bedazzled hearing aid

Hanna Agar / hannaagar.com / Via thelaughingphotographer.tumblr.com

There are currently over 11 million people in the UK with hearing loss, or one in six of the population. This looks to rise to 15.6 million by 2035, to one in five people. Over 70% of people over the age of 70 have some kind of hearing loss. Hearing aids generally tend to look awkward and bulky and clearly announce the fact that you have difficulty hearing. Very few people relish wearing one and will struggle on for as long as possible without. But it seems that we may not be that far away from hearing aids becoming the next new fashion accessory.

stylish hearing aids

Hanna Agar / hannaagar.com / Via thelaughingphotographer.tumblr.com

American artist Elena Langer was Inspired by her elegant grandmother who resisted wearing a hearing aid due to the stigma associated with them. Elena, who who runs the ethical project blog “What I Live By”  set about making hearing aids more glamorous and more like jewellery. She  teamed up with NYC photographer Hanna Agar, they created a dazzling series of shots in real world senarios. Elena modelled for the photo shoot, wearing her hand crafted pieces that looked more like an extravagant pair of earrings, dripping with diamonds, than a hearing aid.

modern hearing aids

Hanna Agar / hannaagar.com / Via thelaughingphotographer.tumblr.com

In certain environments, such as busy restaurants or large groups of people or with background noise, the current hearing aids are not always that effective. Using a more minimal approach, a new company called Soundhawk have developed a sleek new hearing device that utilises smartphone and sensor technology to overcome this problem. Soundhawk is not a hearing aid, but it was created by some of the world’s leading hearing experts. Soundhawk is designed for people who struggle to understand soft speech, have difficulty hearing conversation over distances, or have difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments.

Soundhawk hearing aid device

Phot: Soundhawk

Soundhawk works by increasing the strength of the sounds that you want to hear whilst de-emphasising background noise. The smart listening system includes the Scoop (the earpiece) and a Wireless Mic, which when placed near the sound source delivers clear sound to the Scoop – even in the noisiest of places like restaurants or a lively dinner table. The Wireless Mic has a range of up to 33 feet and can be placed on a table or clipped onto the clothing of the person you are talking to. A charging case is included with a USB that plugs into an outlet or computer to charge. The devices are unified by a simple mobile App. The reviews are generally good but for a few customers it seems as if Soundhawk was not always the solution. However, their customer service seemed quick to respond and refund.  Soundhawk is currently only available in the United States but we have been advised that international shipping is in the pipeline.

babelfisk glasses

Taking a slightly alternative approach, Babelfisk visual hearing aid is a concept device created by Danish industrial designer Mads Hindhede. The hearing aid is housed in a pair of glasses with built in speech recognition software and the speech is converted into text in the form of speech bubbles which display on the glasses.

Babelfisk speech-recognition-glasses

Babelfisk speech recognition glasses

The device has two built in microphones which also address the issue of where the sound is coming from, helping the wearer to adapt to a 3D environment that sound creates.

Although Bablefisk does not appear to have moved on from its concept stage, it still offers a vision for an intelligently designed approach to hearing loss.

 

 

 

 

Design Museum – Life On Foot & Sabi Canes

Camper store

Camper Store, 5th Avenue NYC

If you are passionate about shoes, the Life on Foot exhibition at the Design Museum which runs from 13th May – 1st of November could be right up your street!

Life On Foot is the first exhibition for the much-loved family run Spanish shoe brand Camper. The exhibition explores the journey of traditional shoe making and the influences of contemporary design and technology.

Learn about Camper’s extensive archives, their design studios in Mallorca through to their extensive high-tech manufacturing facilities in the Far East. Camper is now a global brand that occupies contemporary design led retail spaces and has a playful approach to advertising.

Camper

Camper advertising

The exhibition also delves into the pedestrian’s relationship to the built in environment where you can also discover how wearable technologies and surveillance systems impact on our experience of walking.

colourful, trendy walking sticks

Sabi ROAM Sport Cane

To complement the Camper exhibition, the Design Museum invited us to exhibit our eye-catching, and colourful Sabi Roam Canes  which are strategically placed around the exhibition. Walking canes are an intrinsic part of pedestrian life and the fun loving design of Sabi Canes marries beautifully with the Camper brand.

stylish funky walking sticks

 

Life On Foot runs until the 1st November 2015.  Catch it while you can!

 

Self Lacing Shoes and Footwear for Disability

Putting on a pair of shoes can be a daily struggle and a chore if you are disabled or elderly.  But shoe designers are coming up with some interesting, futuristic designs that could help make life easier.

As a result of an open letter sent  by a teenager with Cerebral Palsy, Nike have developed a cool pair of trainers designed for people with disabilities. Matthew Walzer, then 16, wrote asking Nike to make a pair of accessible shoes that would provide support and a closure system that could be used by everyone.

Nike Flyease

Nike Flyease trainers

In his letter, Matthew said “Out of all the challenges I have overcome in my life, there is one that I am still trying to master, tying my shoes. Cerebral palsy stiffens the muscles in the body. As a result I have flexibility in only one of my hands which makes it impossible for me to tie my shoes. My dream is to go to the college of my choice without having to worry about someone coming to tie my shoes everyday”

In response to his plea, Nike have developed Flyease, a trainer that uses a wrap around zipper system to secure the shoe, whilst a larger opening has been created to make it easier to slide the foot in and out.

In a posting on the Nike website, designer Tinker Hatfield said “While varying levels of mobility make it difficult to provide a universal solution, we feel this is a significant development for anyone who has ever struggled with independently securing their foot within Nike shoes.” Matthew responded by saying “There are not enough ‘thank yous’ in the world to express my undying gratitude.”

Limited quantities of the LeBron Soldier 8 FLYEASE are now available on Nike.com website.

 

Japanese footwear designer Masaya Hashimoto has joined forces with Italian shoe maker Vibram to create the Vibram Furoshiki; a minimalist piece of footwear that has been described as Origami for the feet.

Vibram-furoshiki shoes

Vibram Furoshiki

Furoshiki-Vibram-shoes-stretch

Furoshiki is the traditional Japanese technique of cloth wrapping which is still used today for gift wrapping and transporting goods. This ancient technique has been used to create a minimalist piece of footwear with an innovative and anatomical grip sole that literally wraps the shoe in place. This is a really interesting concept which may help those with limited hand dexterity. You could imagine they would feel like second skin footwear; whether they will be waterproof or more of a slipper shoe is unclear but we will watch the shoe’s progress with interest.

 

Later this year, Nike is planning to release the Nike AIr MAG, a pair of self-lacing shoes, inspired by the time travel film  ’Back to the Future II’ worn by the fictional character Marty McFly when he is transported in the movie to 2015.

nike-mag-2015-release

Nike Air MAG

Rollers embedded in the sole of the Nike Air MAG  would be activated by a control system which senses weight in the sole of the shoe. The power laces then respond by tightening and wrapping themselves around the shoe. Teasers have been dropped recently by Nike’s designer Tinker Hatfield as to the launch date later this year for the Air MAG so watch this space…