TInnGO’s UK Hub is delivering an empathy module for product design students at Coventry University between January and February this year. In partnership with research designers and lecturers Tim Ball and Paul Magee, activities and talks about the importance of empathy towards older users and codesigning are being carried. Senior citizens will be collaborating in the module by sharing their experiences and skills, exchanging knowledge and their input, evaluating a final prototype presented by the students at the end of the module.
Amongst many activities, such as talks on empathy, ‘a day in the life’ scenarios and simulations of old age and disabilities, this intervention aims to develop students’ empathy and diversity thinking in their designing and creation processes. Talks about empathy, disability and diversity in research have been given, as well as activities and simulations inviting students to experience older users’ routines. As an introductory activity and encouragement of other creative ways, students made drawings of their colleagues using their feet on the first day. A lecture on disability and relevant design was also given by Prof. Dr. McDonagh, from the University of Illinois – USA.
Students wore age simulation GERT suits, wheelchairs, hearing impairment headphones and other equipment for their second day, whilst walking around Coventry and performing some tasks, like paying for parking or getting in and out of a car with their wheelchair. Some of them reported an unease feeling of being observed or perceived to be ‘in the way’ of others. This experience was interesting as they were reflecting about different perspectives from their own abled-bodied lives.
On our third day, Prof. Dr. Woodcock, TInnGO’s principal investigator, simulated different impairments and conditions in groups of students, from finger-binding to visual impairments. Students were then given a list of tasks to perform, from using phones to designing a house for their grandparents, practicing what has been discussed and learned so far in our sessions.
Feedback from the students have been very interesting. Comments on “the emotional feeling of confidence and independence” and “how much your sight can affect the way you hear things” shows how affected they were by the intervention. As we carry on with the activities, senior citizens will join us in February for the codesigning activities. We will be updating our Hub throughout the month with more information on the activities, results, responses and reactions from our participants.