A custom bed desk for a client with muscular dystrophy, created using human-centered design.

Sharifa’s Workstation: Custom desk that supports limited range of motion while working and eating in bed.

New York University

Lauren Race, Tsai-Pei Shen, Simon Jensen

Problem Statement: Our client Sharifa was looking for a custom workstation so she could comfortably work from home. She has muscular dystrophy and has limited use of her arms. She prefers working from bed to avoid edema in her legs. The workstation was to replace the support she created with blankets, which get too hot.

Research Question: When you view your user as more of an expert than the designer, does assistive technology serve the client better when they take part in its design?

Design Solution: A custom bed desk, tailored to her needs. We viewed the project as a collaborative process, using low to high fidelity prototyping to user test each week. Over 8 weeks, we used the prototypes to determine and meet her criteria. The bed desk was built from lightweight plywood, with a custom shape and height, used no electrical elements that generated heat, coated in polyurethane for durability, padded and supported her elbows, lifted her meal bowl closer to her face, kept her tools within reach with rubber stripping, and avoided skin irritation with countersunk screws and rounded edges.

Expected Significance: Sharifa has given us the following statement about the workstation, ”
Together, we learned that it’s crucial to test early and often, your client’s opinions can change once they have a physical prototype to react to, and that they should lead design- they know their needs better than anyone.

RESNA Design Brief

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