Winter Quarter 2019

Perspectives in Assistive Technology


David L. Jaffe, MS
Lathrop Library, Classroom 282
Tuesdays & Thursdays from 4:30pm to 5:50pm

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Candidate Individual Projects - 2019

General Information on Individual Projects

Individual Projects are designed to be less time-consuming for a student whose schedule does not permit working on a team-based project but wishes to receive a letter grade and one credit unit. Students working on an individual project must meet with the course instructor during the second week of classes to discuss and agree upon the specifics of the project. Also see Required Course and Individual Project Activities.

Individual Projects differ from Team Projects in that they (Individual Projects) address simpler problems, have less complex solutions, may not involve a user, or result in a lower level of prototype functionality (such as producing a CAD design instead of a working physical prototype).

Optionally, two students may work collectively on an Individual Project as a way of enhancing their project experiences and making Individual Projects more appealing to students currently on the Team Project Wait List. It is still be offered as 1 credit unit and require attendance in at least 10 class sessions.

Students working on Individual Project focus on one of the following activities that relate to or would potentially benefit an older adult or individual with a disability:

  1. Research an assistive technology topic - report on new products and research under development.

  2. Pursue a "paper design" of an assistive technology device - develop a CAD design or a "low resolution" physical device built from foam-core or other prototyping material.

  3. Create a work of art - create an original poem, song, skit, painting, or video. (This option would be of particular interest to students who have skills and expertise other than engineering.)

  4. Engage in an aftermarket aesthetic design - select an existing assistive product that could benefit from a better appearance, contact the manufacturer, and work with a user of the device to improve its aesthetic appeal.

  5. Engage in an aftermarket functionality / usability design - select an existing assistive product that could benefit from a better functionality or usability, contact the manufacturer, and work with a user of the device to improve its functionality or usability.

  6. Consider one of the projects listed below.

Individual Project Titles: (year originally suggested)

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Small red dot  Accessible Portal for Brazilian Tourism

Background: The goal of the Accessible Portal for Tourism Project is to map the main tourist attractions of the Federal District of Brazil (the area around Brasilia, the capitol) in an accessible manner, following Brazilian technical regulations. The Portal will make information available on a digital platform, in accordance with international standards for web accessibility.

The portal platform is planned to be composed of several modules: tourism, health, education, transportation, business, and other new technologies, all aimed at Persons with Disabilities.

Aim: Explore plans for how the project goal can be achieved, types of information to be included, website organization, and considerations and testing for accessibility.


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Small red dot  Assistive Technology Pop-Up Shop

Problem: Many assistive technology products are too expensive for people with disabilities or older adults to purchase. Others are not covered by insurance. In addition, broken devices may need to be repaired.

Aim: Explore plans for a pop-up store that would repair and fabricate simple, low-cost assistive technology devices or create custom solutions.

Design Criteria: Plans should include:

  • example devices to be fabricated or repaired
  • parts to be stocked
  • equipment to be purchased
  • workers required
  • space required
  • work flow
  • funding and financial considerations
  • advertising plan


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Small red dot  Wheelchair Protector for Abby

Background: Abby is an individual with multiple disabilities: a mobility challenge, a bipolar disorder, a visual impairment, and is a wheelchair user. Her service dog, Nathan, helps her be independent.

Problem: Abby reports that she frequently runs into the sides of doors, which scuffs both the door and the side panels of her wheelchair.

Aim: Explore design concepts that would protect the sides of Abby's wheelchair from damage encountered when moving through tight spaces.

Design Criteria: The design must:

  • not involve drilling into the door or the wheelchair's side panels
  • be removable
  • not alter the wheelchair's aesthetic appearance


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Small red dot  Weather Protection for Abby

Background: Abby is an individual with multiple disabilities: a mobility challenge, a bipolar disorder, a visual impairment, and is a wheelchair user. Her service dog, Nathan, helps her be independent.

Problem: Abby reports that she sometimes gets chilly when using her wheelchair outdoors. There is no quick way for her to retrieve a jacket or blanket from her backpack.

Aim: Explore design concepts that would protect Abby from weather conditions such as rain, wind, and cold when she is using her wheelchair.

Design Criteria: The design must:

  • deploy only when needed
  • not involve drilling into the wheelchair
  • not alter the wheelchair's aesthetic appearance


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Small red dot  LiveWell RERC 2019 Student App Challenge

LiveWell RERC is sponsoring an app development competition for middle, high school, and college students as well as non-professional developers. Three winning apps will be selected to receive a cash award. We will also select two apps at random for prizes, so we encourage you to submit your project even if you have simple app.

The LiveWell App Challenge is intended to promote awareness of the need for assistive and accessible technologies by fostering innovation through a fun, hands-on activity. Applicants are encouraged to submit mobile applications that address a need from one of LiveWell’s target areas, but apps from any area will be accepted. We are particularly interested in apps that can be used by people with disabilities and people who are aging. Below are additional focus areas:

  • Health and function
  • Accessibility
  • Money management
  • Navigation
  • Home automation and control
  • Personal communication
  • Access to public announcements and notifications

Judging will take place in May 2019.


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Small red dot  Title




Design Criteria:


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Small red dot  Project for Aurora

Aurora in her wheelchair

Background: Aurora is an extroverted 10 year old, lives in the Sacramento area, and has Cerebral Palsy. She has no speech, but answers either / or questions by shifting her eye gaze to the speaker's left or right hand. She is quick enough that the other kids have made a game of asking her questions. She also has a speaking computer that her mother uses frequently. She is unable to walk, but may be able to support her own weight. She uses a power wheelchair for mobility, but the joystick is positioned behind her and operated by others.

Problem: Aurora has a lack of independent mobility which affects her ability to interact with others.

Aim: Explore paper designs (non-functional) that would either improve her ability to move independently or help her interact with her parents and peers.

Design Criteria:

  • Age and gender appropriate "cool" design
  • Non-functional paper, CAD, or low-resolution prototypes


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Small red dot  Facial Masking Videos

Background: Parkinson's Disease (PD) affects up to 1 million people in the US and doctors diagnose as many as 60,000 new cases each year. Just as PD affects movement in other parts of the body, it also affects the muscles in the face, mouth, and throat that are used in speaking.

Problem: Facial Masking is the loss of facial expressions due to PD. This condition can make it harder to communicate the emotions that go along with speech. Others may misinterpret this as a lack of interest in the conversation or aloofness. In addition, some people with PD struggle to find words, and so they may speak slowly. And in other cases, PD causes people to speed up their speech so much that it may sound like stuttering. These and other changes to speech vary from person to person. But they all can make it difficult for people with PD to be understood, and to enjoy socializing.

Aim: Produce videos that illustrate Facial Masking:

  • A short video that can be shown to the person with whom they are communicating, describing Facial Masking.
  • A longer video describing Facial Masking to a larger audience.

Design Criteria:


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Small red dot  Quick Switch

Background: This project would serve people who have limited dexterity or whose hands and arms are occupied with a carrying task.

Problem: People with limited dexterity may find it more difficult to operate a standard style toggle light switches than the newer "rocker" type.

Aim: Explore designs for an device to make a toggle light switch easier to operate.

Design Criteria:

  • must not require re-wiring of switch
  • must be a clean-looking design
  • could provide space for an identifying label
  • perhaps be easy to find in a darkened room
  • operate with an elbow if hands & arms are full


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Small red dot  Evaluation of JetPod for Children with Disabilities

Background: JetPod is a new battery-operated open-water joystick-controlled motorized circular floating recreational platform. Adults or children can sit or stand on the platform, experiencing the fun and mobility independence of navigating the water and interacting with other JetPod users and swimmers on other floating devices. The product is constructed from high quality drop stitch inflatable material, weighting 36 pounds including batteries, and is easily transportable.

Desire: ual Jet Marine (JetPod's manufacturer) and Good Life Mobility have an interest in evaluating the possible benefits this device might provide for children with disabilities.

Aim & Activities: Engage in activities that would evaluate the ability of this commercial product to address the therapeutic and psychosocial needs, including promoting confidence and empowerment, of children with spinal cord injury, autism, cystic fibrosis, and developmental disabilities. Project activities would include:

  1. Student familiarization with product
  2. Contact local organizations (agencies and individuals such as therapists) that work with children with disabilities
  3. Introduce JetPod by phone conversation, email, website, social media
  4. Solicit initial reactions with a questionnaire
  5. Follow-up with JetPod demo for organizations
  6. Follow-up with JetPod demo to include children
  7. Solicit demo reactions from organizations with a questionnaire
  8. Analyze data to determine benefits
  9. Final report and presentation

Support: Dual Jet Marine will provide JetPods for demonstrations (with and without the participation of children) for organizations serving children with disabilities. Additionally they will provide transportation, safety support, waivers, and liability insurance.


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Small red dot  Project for Amelie

Background: Amelie is a student with cerebral palsy who attends JLS Middle School in Palo Alto. She will be getting a new manual wheelchair and uses a trike to get around at school.

Problem: Individuals, such as Amelie, who use wheelchairs, scooters, or walkers have little opportunity to extend their personal sense of fashion and aesthetics to these devices. This is exacerbated by the fact that the equipment covered by health insurance or Medicare is often the most "basic" version with a plain design. Whereas one's choice of clothes, shoes, accessories, and jewelry are made on a daily basis, users of these devices have to "wear" the same equipment everyday and for every occasion.

Aim: Explore ways to add a personal aesthetic to Amelie's wheelchair and/or trike.

Design Criteria:

  • The design should not alter or permanently deface or damage the physical structure of the wheelchair and/or trike.
  • The customization should be able to easily be installed, removed, changed, cleaned, and washed by the user.
  • Consider different user personas and aesthetics (e.g. refined / elegant, modern / contemporary, smart / sporty, premium / luxury, male / female, as well as the age of user, etc).
  • Consider fabrics, metal finishes, colors, patterns, lights, textures, and text elements.
  • Consider a variety of usage occasions (e.g. in-home, outdoors, party, tailgater, etc).
  • The design should be inexpensive and easy to fabricate.
  • Consider designs that would enhance wheelchair visibility at night, especially when crossing streets.


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Danny's Dresser

Background: Danny lives in Los Gatos and has cerebral palsy with a cortical vision impairment. He uses a manual wheelchair to get around.

Problem: Danny's current dresser is challenging for him to use:

  • The contents of the top and bottom drawers are difficult to reach
  • Opening the drawers is a two-handed operation which requires pulling on two small knobs on the left and right side of each drawer
  • Opening the drawers requires considerable physical exertion

Aim: Explore designs for a dresser for Danny so he can be independent in accessing his clothes.

Design Criteria:

  • The drawers must be easy to grab and operate both in opening and closing
  • The clothes must be accessible - at the proper height for a manual wheelchair user


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Fun at the Beach

Jessa at he beach in a beach wheelchair

Background: Jessa is an extremely active 8 year old girl who has one leg and a twin sister who she constantly chases.

Problem: When Jessa's family vacationed at the beach over the holidays, Jessa used a "regular beach wheelchair". It didn't fit in the car, was not able to be independently propelled, and was too tall to access the sand or water, interfering with her ability to make sand castles and look for shells and stones.

Aim: Explore designs for a wheeled mobility device that would allow Jessa to explore the beach and engage in typical beach activities.


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Project for Solomon

Background: Solomon is an 18-month old child from Foster City with epidermolysis bullosa (EB), a condition of the skin that causes it to be fragile and easily injured, forming painful blisters - a serious problem if they subsequently become infected.

Solomon's father explains further: "The problem is shear stress. Skin is basically a composite material, and for these kids, the 'glue' between two of the layers is weak or non-existent. In Solomon's case, the defect is at the lowest layer, and the glue is weak. We use additional layers of clothes to help absorb shear stress for him. For example, Solomon wears a tight layer of soft cotton undergarments at all times, called Skinnies, which cover his entire body from neck to toe. On his knees and elbows, he then wears soft pads. Then over these garments he wears socks, pants, a long sleeve shirt, and cotton gloves on his hands. Together, this system reduces the shear stress able to reach his skin and reduces the likelihood for injury."

"However this solution is not perfect. For example, should we be using a tight layer made of Lycra rather than cotton? How would that affect the shear stress reaching his skin and his temperature regulation? Hard knee and elbow pads like skateboarders use would be great for him, but the straps to hold these pads in place are likely to cut him. How could we modify these straps to be effective? These are the types of engineering questions that could yield real benefits for Solomon and the many kids and adults like him."

Problem: Solomon does not have large areas of wounds on his body because his parents don't allow him to engage in play activities for fear that he will get injured. But Solomon desperately wants to play with his 5 year-old brother and other kids: running, climbing, and doing other things a child of that age typically does.

Aim: Explore design concepts to provide Solomon with protection during “normal” play activities.


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Simple Games for Children with Autism

"Last week I met with eight caregivers (mothers of children with autism) about you (Alexandra Berrio) and your organization's (Assistive Labs) assistive aid. Six have children with moderate to severe levels of autism who do not have verbal communication skills. The mothers shared a shocking revelation with me that they lead socially isolated lives. They do not attend any social activities such marriages & birthday parties, visit relatives and neighbors' houses during the festival season, dine in restaurants, go to the market, etc. Other family members may attend these events, but the mothers, who are the main caregivers of their autistic children, can't attend. In public, their children exhibit the following behaviors:"

  • They become hyperactive: do not want to sit in their chairs.
  • They make meaningless sounds, sometimes they shout - sometimes these vocalizations disturb everyone nearby.
  • They become restless: running and jumping.
  • Sometimes they become destructive: breaking glasses and hitting others. (This may be a sensory issue.)
  • They exhibit unwanted behaviors such as taking food from another's plate or licking objects.

"People nearby object to these activities and complain. For these reasons, the caregivers lead socially isolated lives caring as they care for their autism children."

"There are many games and apps for children, but none specifically for autistic children. These children do like gadgets, but they face challenges using them. Most of them provide too much stimulation and require a high level of concentration, making them difficult to use. The parents want a device to occupy their children when they attend social activities. During that time, the children should be fully engaged with the device so they don't misbehave. The device should be easy to carrry and use."

"An Occupational Therapy perspective offers these consideration for a successful app:"

  • Display less visual information as excessive visual information over-stimulates.
  • Use only basic colors such as red, yellow, and blue.

(This document was authored by the Centre for Rehabilitation and Paralysis in Bangladesh and provided by Alexandra Berrio of Assistive Labs.)


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Durable Medical Equipment Projects

Aim: Explore CAD designs for affordable durable medical equipment supporting older adults at home including devices to:

  • assist in standing
  • help in lifting
  • transfer to/from wheelchair to bath tub
  • ascend and descend stairs
  • prevent bed sores
  • facilitate transportation to/from rehab centers and doctor's appointments
  • promote upper body exercise


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Crossing the Street

Aim: Explore designs to help pedestrians who are blind safely and independently navigate a cross walk equipped with a traffic signal.

Car Company Offering Red Light-Reading Vehicles in Las Vegas

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Wheelchair Accessible Swing

Background: The Magical Bridge Playground in Palo Alto is the nation's first fully accessible and socially inclusive playground designed specifically for children with disabilities as well as children of parents who have a disability.


  • Many commercially available wheelchair accessible swings are large and require active adult supervision due to safety concerns with the possibility of a child being struck by moving components.
  • Many of the current designs don't meet a criteria for mindful aesthetics.
  • The current offering of wheelchair accessible swings does not provide a means for the child with limited arm strength to independently get into the swing or control its motion.

Aim: Explore CAD and/or scaled aesthetic designs that would allow playground users to enjoy swinging independently and safely.


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Device(s) for Holding & Manipulating


Problem: People like Kim who don't have use of their arms and hands, whether due to paralysis, amputation, or birth defect have challenges holding and manipulating objects around them.

Aim: Explore designs for a device (or a suite of devices) that would aid Kim in grasping and manipulation tasks such as cooking, food preparation, housework, and office work.

Design Criteria: The device(s) should be light weight, assist in a variety of activities, and able to be used independently.


Where is the AT for Individuals without Limbs?


Kim stting at her work desk with the mouth grabber on a stand. Kim at her work desk with the mouth grabber on a stand.

Kim at home.

Kim at her work desk with the mouth grabber on a stand.

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Projects for Nearpod

Background: Nearpod is a mobile learning platform that helps teachers deliver instruction using iPads (and other mobile devices) in the classroom. It combines interactive presentation, collaboration, and real-time assessment tools into one integrated solution.

1. Lesson Design for a Grade School Student with a Disability

Problem: Teachers strive to provide all their students with the best possible classroom learning experiences. Unfortunately, teachers typically design their lessons for a general student population, overlooking the needs of students with disabilities.

Aim: Develop lesson guidelines and examples for a grade school student with a disability using Nearpod.

Design Process:
  • connect with a Special Education teacher
  • identify a particular student with a disability
  • research best practices in lesson design for this disability
  • create new or modify existing lessons appropriate for the grade, topic, and disability
  • receive feedback from the Special Education teacher on lesson's the effectiveness
  • compose a guideline document for developing educational lessons for this disability as a part of project report

Other: The project is not intended to address the computer access needs of students who are blind or deaf or those with mobility impairments that challenge their ability to respond to lessons: entering text, drawing, or making choices on the display.

2. Vision Impairment Simulator

Develop an app that simulates a variety of selected visual impairments in real time using a smartphone camera.


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User Survey of Power Wheelchair Desirable Features and Capabilities

Perform a survey of power wheelchair users to identify desirable features and capabilities that could be incorporated into future wheelchair designs. Include both wheelchair and user safety items as well as information about the surrounding infrastructure and route being traveled.

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Projects employing inexpensive voice-recognition technology

Background: Thirty years ago, voice recognition systems were in their infancy. A typical system cost $3000 and required considerable user training to recognize just a few words. Today, the cost of these devices has fallen sharply while the performance has improved greatly.

Aim: Explore an application for a person with a disability using an inexpensive voice recognition product. Examples include enhanced computer control and accessibility for those with limited manipulation abilities, control of household appliances (lights, TV, music system), and operation of a hospital bed.

Design Criteria: The device should be appropriate for the user's abilities and be simple to configure and use.


EasyVR Shield
Voice Recognition Module
Speech Recognition with Arduino

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Pooper scooper for canine companions of wheelchair users

Problem: Wheelchair users who walk their dogs need to clean up after them. Limited hand / arm strength and reduced mobility can affect the dog owner's ability to successfully perform both the collection and bagging portions of this task.

Aim: Explore designs for a pooper scooper system that will be easy for pet owners with a disability to use.

Design Criteria: The improved scooper design can employ commercially available components, but must be simple in design, lightweight, convenient to store on the wheelchair, easy to use by pet owners with limited hand / arm movement, and inexpensive to fabricate.



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Household Tasks Project

Problem: Older adults often find it difficult to perform everyday household tasks such as hanging curtains, fixing household devices, cleaning windows, ironing, and making the bed.

Aim: Explore device designs that are capable of improving or restoring the ability of older adults to attend to daily household tasks, especially the most basic ones such as making the bed and ironing.

Design Criteria: The design should be intuitive and safe to use, highly reliable, lightweight, and easy to handle, clean, and store.


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Shower / Bathtub / Sink / Toilet Cleaning Project

Problem: For older adults to remain in their current housing (as they desire), they must be able to independently maintain the cleanliness of their house, including its shower, bathtub, sink, and toilet. While there are numerous cleaning products on the market, none adequately addresses the problem. [What are some of their limitations?]

Aim: Explore design solutions for the shower / bathtub / sink / toilet cleaning problem for an older adult with a disability.

Design Criteria: The design(s) must be economical, esthetically pleasing, as well as easy and safe to use while performing the cleaning task. The design will be driven by the user's abilities.


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Individual Projects Suggested by the Ideation Workshop Senior User Insights Panel

Address concerns expressed by the Ideation Workshop Senior User Insights Panel for the Stanford Center on Longevity's Design Challenge, "Enabling Personal Mobility across the Life Span".

The result of the individual student project efforts should be ideas, concepts, or low-resolution models rather than functional prototypes.

  • lifting individuals who have fallen in their home (either with or without the assistance of another family member)
  • promoting community participation through enhanced use of transportation and communication systems
  • improving appearance and beauty
  • sustaining mobility and activity after a diagnosis of Parkinson's or other similar conditions
  • addressing technophobia through instructional techniques
  • making new friends and maintaining current relationships in the community
  • redesigning communities for older adults

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Individual Projects with Veterans with Spinal Cord Injury

1. Problems and needs expressed at SCI Peer Support Group Meeting

Manipulating objects:
  • picking up dropped items, especially from under tables or chairs
  • reaching items high on shelves
  • carrying items such as papers and groceries
  • retrieving mail from a mailbox
  • BBQ implements
  • handling a bank card at an ATM
  • handling money - both coins and bills
Accessing the real-world:
  • charging system for powered wheelchair users
  • mounting an iPhone camera for a photographer with C5/6 quadriplegia
  • opening doors
  • opening a 2-liter bottle
  • preparing and serving food including cooking tasks, making sandwiches, and heating soup
  • controlling appliances such as the TV, telephone, electric bed, music system, nurse call, etc.
    HouseMate ECU for Android Configurator
    VoiceIR Environmental Voice Controller Configurator
  • transferring to / from wheelchair to bed or shower
  • tele-visiting / tele-working with family / co-workers at home/office during hospital stay
  • selecting groceries remotely for delivery
  • designing an arm ergometer that would allow users to strap themselves in
  • exploring joystick concepts that would accommodate a variety of shaft geometries
  • building a cup holder that can fit on any wheelchair
Recreational activities:
Caregiver (family, nurse, and therapist) assistance

2. Fishing rod, wheelchair brackets, accessible digital camera, lap tray system

  • A device to operate a fishing rod for a user without use of upper extremity - to reel the line in/out, lock the reel, etc
    existing products from Broadened Horizons
  • A bracket design for new power wheelchairs that would allow use of an overhead sling system
  • A bracket system for power wheelchairs that would work with a mobile arm support system
  • A device that would allow a high level quadriplegia (C4) to use a digital camera. It need not be able to adjust position of camera, but it should include a feature to snap a photo for users with diminished hand function.
    existing products from Broadened Horizons
  • A lap tray system that is compatible with the new wheelchair designs

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Specific Individual Projects

  1. Accessibility Survey

    Aim: Perform an accessibility survey and analysis of a new Stanford building. (This project might best be accomplished by two students performing surveys of two buildings - one doing the measuring, the other recording and swapping roles between buildings.)

  2. Customize a Cane or Walker or Wheelchair

    Aim: Explore ways to add a personal aesthetic to a user's cane, walker, or wheelchair.

  3. Customize a Whill Wheelchair

    Aim: Explore ways to add a personal aesthetic to a Whill wheelchair.

  4. User-friendly Android App

    Aim: Create an Android app interface for users with limited vision for blinddroid.

  5. Age-Appropriate Learning Material

    Aim: Explore design concepts for age-appropriate learning material for adult participants with K - 3 grade reading level.

  6. Age-Appropriate Sensory Engagement

    Aim: Explore dignified design concepts for age-appropriate sensory stimulation items for adult participants with diminished cognitive functioning.

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Other Individual Projects

  1. Accessible interfaces for commonly-used devices:
    iPods / iPads / mp3 players
    Cell phones
    Remote controls

  2. Toys for kids with disabilities

  3. Projects benefitting children with Autism

  4. Projects benefitting parents with disabilities

  5. 5. Projects benefiting a person with a disability or an older adult in a developing country

  6. Projects supporting equal access to extracurricular sports activities for students with disabilities

  7. Assistive technology project defined by Google[x]

  8. Assistive technology project defined by Avenidas

  9. Software projects suggested by Project: Possibility

  10. Revisit projects listed in NSF guide:
    Engineering Senior Design Projects to Aid Persons with Disabilities

  11. Student-defined Individual Projects:
    Meet with the course instructor to discuss and agree upon the specifics of the project. Interview, observe, and discuss assistive technology problems with an individual with a disability or older adult. Address their desire to participate in one of the following activities by designing an adaptation to an existing device / tool or creating a new, more useful one.

    • Activities of Daily Living - cooking, showering or bathing, dressing, cleaning, housework, yard work, employment, education, shopping, commuting, etc

    • Sports and Exercise - walking, running, indoor and outdoor sports, etc

    • Leisure Activities and Hobbies - collecting, model making, crafts, board games & videogames, etc

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Updated 12/07/2018

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