We were glued to the computer screen, seeing it go from 0% to 100% in just one day! Incredible and thank you to all of you who immediately understand what the Alinker means for people, what the impact can be and how it can changes lives.
TOGETHER WE MOVE DIFFERENTLY
but we are not quite there yet...
DESIGN FOR THE USER
Inventor of the Alinker, Barbara Alink was one of the twelve speakers at the TEDx event on the 23rd April in Vancouver. The actual talks will all be live within a month, but exclusively for you Alinker INSIDERS, here is the text of her talk which she did on the Alinker:
When my father was 45 … he died... as an 8 year old girl I learned that people die… not just when they are old…
I also experienced that people are very uncomfortable talking about death… … or disease… or aging… or disabilities for that matter…
Like my dad, I am a designer, that is who I am, that is how I look at the world.
The word ‘design’ means purpose, plan and intention.
Design is a process, to create a solution with a particular purpose, within a context of constraints.
I start with a definition of design, because in modern society, the word design is freely used for everything that needs to sound sexier than it really is… in order to sell.
I am always looking for a context that requires a design.
Sometimes I find a context and other times it is something that someone says that launches a context into my viewfinder.
And that happened some 4 years ago, when I was in town with my mum …
We passed a group of elderly people using walkers and scooters… now, you have to know about my mum that she is a bit of a character and has a way of being quite forthright… out of the blue she said: ‘over my dead body will I ever use one of those’.
I asked what she meant, she got quiet, paused, then said, “well, actually, I am really scared to become disabled and be look upon, as I look upon them”.
With that one comment of my mum, I realized that mobility devices can emphasize the disability.
Now there was a context! …I decided right there and then to design something that even my mum would use.
I started researching….
How many people are actually using walking aids, or how many people should be using them….. and
Besides the stigma, are there functional considerations?
Not to be hunched over, have your hands free, have no weight bearing on your legs, be in balance, to be at eye level, feel safe, …
Demographics… what is the extend of the people I would design for?
I found out that the CDC has identified that insufficient activity is the #1 cause for half of the people with Diabetes today. 29 million people of all ages in North America have diabetes, and all are at the risk of loosing limbs and loose their mobility.
Some 1 million people have Parkinson’s, and between 4-500.000 people have MS, just some examples.
But besides all that, there is a true tsunami of baby boomers ramming into a health care system that is no longer compatible. The health care system is more a sick care system, as it only kicks in once we’re sick. Right?
Preventative health care as we know it, is mostly limited to screenings for cancer, all procedures that can be billed… That is not health care, that is business!
The question of course is; how do I want to live 20 years from now? I am 52 now… Do I want to be dependent on a system that is less and less compatible with my needs? Or… do I take charge of my own health, eat healthier and move more?
I was starting to wonder how we can create a whole new paradigm for healthcare that keeps us well? How can we create a shift in our mindset in how we think about our own health?
Exploring this context got me really roweled up, there are so many layers, it is multi faceted… it is huge.
Initially I had set out to design something less stigmatizing for my mum, yet I realized it needed to be a vehicle that supports an active life, regardless of physical challenges.
When I was 5 years old, my grandma told me that when ever you face a problem, turn it around and you might find the solution.
What she meant was, do not judge, do not assume anything until you realize that your perspective is only limited.
The context and the extend are meaningless if I do not understand who I am designing for, the users. The user, is the person on the other side, who holds the secrets for what my design needs to solve.
So who is the user, I wanted to meet the person to whom I was making the journey. So, uncomfortable and a bit scared, I didn’t quite know what I get myself into, scared to fail, but I went to meet them.
I met lots of potential users, I met people who have MS, spending years online searching for something that would make them feel less disabled;
I met many people like my mum, who would rather not use anything, and be at risk of falling and getting injured;
I met people with diseases I never even heard about like CMT, or neuropathy, yet they are obstructions to an active life.
I met hundreds of people, incredible human beings, powerful, beautiful, courageous… they shared with me that they often feel … dismissed, judged by the sum of their physical appearance.
I really want to tell you about Dynie.
Some years ago while riding her bike, she collided with a dump truck. The truck driver didn’t even see her.
After multiple surgeries, excruciating pains, trauma, nightmares and 8 months of rehabilitation, she was slowly getting used to her body that had changed so much. Dynie had lost both her legs.
Over the years, Dynie shared many stories with me, but one in particular stuck with me. She had a very rough day and said to Bert, her husband, let’s go to town, get a new dress. Something that would make her feel better.
They went to a very nice boutique. Dynie wheeled in and started looking around. A lovely sales lady came over and asked if they needed any help. Dynie said “I am looking for a beautiful new dress”… immediately the sales woman turned to Bert, and said: ‘does she like red?’
What should have been uplifting, was absolutely devastating.
It was in that moment that Dynie realized that not only her body, but her whole life had changed, by how people see her, reacting from their own fears, unintentionally I am sure, but dismissing her. And in that Dynie is constantly exposed and vulnerable.
And initially, I too felt uncomfortable, can I ask questions, do I kneel down .... but…
In my willingness to be uncomfortable, and my determination to truly meet her, I met this radiant woman. When I then placed myself in her body, I was still the same whole human being, like she is...
And when I then tried to imagine what she would want as a user, is to be active, be social, live a full life, go to work, go to museums, her favorite thing, live, love…….
not much different than you and I…right… ?
Now I felt ready to design. Instead of approaching the functional requirements for the physical disability, I now knew the device needed to be cool, so cool that the user would love to use it, so cool that the user would feel proud and be happy, and ultimately so cool that it would overcome the discomfort that other people have with the disability.
You have been listening to me for some time now, sitting on this.
I have my arms free to hug you, I am stable, safe, no stress on my legs, at eye level … yet… you have no way of telling whether I have MS, Parkinson’s, or am missing a leg.… or none of those… (getting off the Alinker)
I use this to stay active, as I am aging, or might get injured, or become disabled…. We are all mortal, that is the one thing we have in common. It equalizes us, and in that, we have an incredible opportunity to connect.
As seen on CBC TV