I am the Academic Director of the Global Disability Innovation Hub (https://www.disabilityinnovation.com) which was founded on the back of the London 2012 Paralympic Games – the most successful in the history of the Games. My role in Fit for Purpose is to explore user experiences and develop better prosthetic interfaces, including activity monitoring sensing.
I lead two studies in Uganda and Jordan with the help of the brilliant Dafne Morgado-Ramirez and the Maggie Donovan-Hall. The first study is utilising wrist-worn activity monitors and ethnographic methods to understand the use or non-use of upper limb prosthetics. We also measure the context (in depth experiences of people with limb absence).
In upper-limb prosthesis research this level of understanding does not exist in Jordan or Uganda and we would not have been able to do the research without the expertise within the University of Jordan and Makarere university, Uganda. Developing teams across continents. When undertaking new types of research methods can be challenging. However, these challenges also bring great reward. We have developed a deep understanding of cultural norms within both Jordan and Uganda which might affect prosthesis use. There has also been learning across disciplines – human-computer interaction researchers now know a lot about skin interfaces; whilst biomedical engineers know more about human-centred design methods.
The second study explores how people with upper limb loss utilise communication technology. We have found that in both countries affordable mobile phones are still not accessible to many and in some cases that includes people with upper-limb loss. We have found there is an opportunity to help prosthesis users share experiences with one another over mobile – something people don’t yet do but have shown a desire to be able to do. Through this study we are testing methods to remove the barriers to mobile phone access and enabling first contact communication. We will be utilising ethnographic methods to see how our intervention impacts social inclusion and well-being of participants.
This research and the Fit for Purpose project more generally are excellent examples of the work we wish to do in the Global Disability Innovation Hub (GDI) – where we work to accelerate disability innovation for a fairer world. It links well to our AT2030 programme which looks to test what works in getting assistive technology to people globally to enable a lifetime of potential. The Fit for Purpose and AT2030 teams work closely together to look for synergies and possible future collaborations. GDI will also be using what we learn in this project to inform our teaching on our new MSc Disability, Design and Innovation.
As we develop our understanding of user needs in Jordan and Uganda we will be co-designing research with Fit for Purpose partners across countries, disciplines and institutions. We look forward to testing a new design of prosthesis which is fit for purpose for the individual and the society in which that individual lives.