Winter Quarter 2022

Perspectives in Assistive Technology


David L. Jaffe, MS
Lathrop Library Classroom 282
Tuesdays & Thursdays from 4:00 to 5:30pm PST

back to homepage

Candidate Individual Projects - 2022

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 one credit unit and a a letter grade. 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.

Individual Projects differ from Team Projects that they (Individual Projects) address simpler problems, have less complex solutions, do not require a fabrication component, may not involve a user, may not require following an engineering design process, or result in a lower level of prototype functionality (such as producing a CAD design instead of building a working physical prototype). For example, a project may focus on investigating a service related to assistive technology.

Optionally, two or more students may work collectively on an Individual Project, sharing these tasks: obtaining background information and brainstorming. However each student is required to pursue, present, and report on different solutions. Individual Projects require attendance in at least 15 class sessions, including the first class session, Introduction to Assistive Technology, Mid-Term Student Team Project Presentations, and End-of-Term Student Team Project Presentations.

For their Individual Project, students are asked to choose and pursue a specific project activity listed below, present their work, submit an end-of-term project report that encompasses their efforts for the entire quarter, and reflect on their experiences. If appropriate, students interview an individual with a disability or an older adult (or family members or health care professionals).

Candidate Individual Projects focus on one of the following listed activities. Some relate to or would potentially benefit an older adult or individual with a disability. Students working on these projects must inform the course instructor of the desired project topic and meet to discuss and agree upon the specifics of the project. Note: These candidate projects will NOT be "pitched" in class. Also see Required Course and Individual Project Activities.

  • Report on an advance in assistve technology - report on new products and research under development in one of the following topic areas:

    • Neural implants, brain-computer interfaces
    • Prosthetics and orthotics
    • Robotics
    • Mobility products
    • Software products
    • Accessibility solutions
  • Report on applications of assistive technology - report on products and research under development in one of the following topic areas:

    • Learning for grade school students with disabilities
    • Web access for individuals with disabilities and older adults
    • Mobility for wheelchair users
    • Speech generation for individuals who are non-vocal
    • Activities of daily living for older adults
  • Report on a disability-related topic - research one of the following topics:

    • Disability and the Law
    • Disability in Film - with a movie review (could be country-specific)
    • Disability in Books - with a detailed book review
    • Disability Activism - Disability Rights
    • Disability in Politics
    • Disability in Sports
    • Disability in the Arts
    • Disability in Music
    • Disability in Employment
  • Report on a local disability or aging organization - submit a comprehensive document that includes student perspectives, as well as those of a staff person and client. Here are some Bay Area organizations:

  • 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 low-cost prototyping material. These could address a challenge related to activities of daily living, creative expression, sports, vocation, communication, mobility, recreation, and leisure. Here are some assistive technology projects from Hackaday that might inspire you.

  • Fabricate an "appearance model" of an assistive technology device - build a limited functional model of an assistive technology device.

  • Create a work of art - create an original poem, song, skit, painting, or video (such as a day in the life of a person with a disability or older adult). (This option would be of particular interest to students who have skills and expertise other than engineering.)

  • 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.

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

  • Consider one of the projects listed below - typical tasks include interviewing an individual with a disability or older adult to get a better understanding of the individual's life, challenges being faced, successes achieved, and desires for the future. Review assistive technology used, their usefulness and limitations, problems experienced, and similar products on the market.

Project Titles Index: (year originally suggested)

Back to top

Small red dot  Accessible Vehicle for Users of Mobility Devices with Jeff

Background: Individuals with mobility impairments use assistive technology devices such as manual & power wheelchairs, scooters, walkers & rollators, canes, and crutches to get around, while a motorized vehicle is employed for traveling long distances.

Problem: For the last 40 years vans for users with mobility impairments have been built using commercially available vehicles which are "torn down" to be fitted with adapted equipment such as a raised roof, ramp, and wheelchair hold-downs. This process incurs significant waste and expense.

Aim: "Disrupt the accessible vehicle industry through innovation and electrification." "Innovations" might include a vehicle (electric powered or hybrid) designed and built "from the ground up" to incorporate / accommodate accessibility features.

Commercial Design Challenges:

  • Able to easily and safely load and secure & unsecure and unload passengers with disabilities
  • Able to accommodate users' mobility devices as well as a possible service animal
  • Low cost and easy to manufacture
  • Provides safety for all occupants during operation

Commercial Product Features:

  • Electric (or hybrid) powered vehicle
  • Production ready - not based on an existing commercial vehicle
  • Accommodates mobility-device users as passengers, driver is an able-bodied individual
  • Autonomous capability (optional)

Desired Individual Project Outcomes: Produce CAD design(s) and an optional scaled appearance model.


Back to top

Small red dot  Improving Stanford Shop Facilities for Students with Disabilities with Kat

Problem: Stanford has a diverse student population, but its shop facilities were not designed for students who are disabled.

Aim: Suggest recommendations for improvements in usability, safety, accessibility, accommodation, course assistant training, signage, and floor plan layout for students with disabilities through a review of PRL and Room 36. Identify additional resources, tools, policies, and space that would be useful and suggest how project assignments could be rewritten to appeal to a wider set of student abilities.


Back to top

Small red dot  Smartphone Charging Fixture for Danny

Background: Danny is a wheelchair user from Los Gatos with cerebral palsy. He experiences limited upper body strength, grip and vision impairments, and diminished hand and finger dexterity.

Problem: Danny has a smartphone that has wireless charging capabilities. However, his vision impairment and diminished hand and finger dexterity prevent him from accurately positioning the phone on the charger.

Aim: Explore designs for a fixture that will allow Danny to easily position his phone for successful charging.


Back to top

Small red dot  Clear Mask Evaluation Project with Lindsey

Background: Clear face masks allow deaf and hard of hearing people to see the entire face of the wearer. Wearing a clear face mask enables the other person to see the wearer's facial expressions, which are integral for comprehension when speechreading (otherwise known as lipreading) or using sign language.

Problem: There is a challenge to "develop better clear masking alternatives for d/Deaf and HoH individuals that also provide strong protection". Lindsey

Aim: Characterize / evaluate several clear mask products à la Consumer Reports. Properties could include: appearance, air leaks, comfort, easy of putting on, lip-reading effort, etc. Identify any shortcomings that could be addressed to design a better mask.


Back to top

Small red dot  Assistive Technology Maker Space Projects

Background: Maker Spaces labs are popping up in schools all across the country. They provide hands-on, creative ways to encourage students to design, experiment, build, and invent as they deeply engage in science, engineering, and tinkering. A Maker Space is not solely a science lab, woodshop, computer lab, or art room, but it may contain elements found in all of these familiar spaces. Therefore, it must be designed to accommodate a wide range of activities, tools, and materials. Diversity and cross-pollination of activities are critical to the design, fabrication, and exploration process, and they are what set Maker Spaces apart from single-use spaces. [1]

Problem: "I am supporting schools that have Maker Spaces, but they lack meaningful, real-world, open-ended challenges for students to do in them. The schools need inspirational challenges and basic support resources (background on the problem, design constraints, and success criteria)." Greg Brown

Aim: Design and document four example Maker Space projects for schools to offer. These projects should focus on assistive technology and involve the design, fabrication, and testing of a prototype device or tool that benefits a person with a disability or an older adult.

Design Criteria:

  • Projects should be suitable for students in grades 7 to 12.
  • Projects could be designed for either individual students or teams to pursue.
  • Project durations are expected to be about a month.


  • The report must describe four example assistive technology projects to be constructed in Maker Space environment, including full project descriptions.
  • The report must describe the process the teacher would use to introduce disability, assistive technology, the project design process, and these projects.

Example Projects:

  • a piece of specialized or adaptive equipment for a new game or sports activity that is inclusive for all students
  • a lap tray for a wheelchair user in class
  • a storage solution for a wheelchair user in class
  • a lighting project to enhance night time visibility for a wheelchair user

Other: Field trips to the Maker Space schools in Los Gatos or Saratoga can be arranged.


Back to top

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. Sometimes a custom solution is required. Others are not covered by insurance. In addition, broken devices may require repair.

Aim: Explore plans for a pop-up store that would fabricate low-cost assistive technology devices, repair broken products, 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


Back to top

Small red dot  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


Back to top

Small red dot  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.

Back to top

Small red dot   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.


Back to top

Small red dot  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.


Back to top

Small red dot  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 fully functional prototypes.

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

Back to top

Small red dot  Projects Suggested by Dave:

Creative Expression

Background: Most everyone has a desire to be creative through activities such as writing, painting, sculpture, pottery, jewelry, quilting, photography, singing, dancing, and music.

Problem: Existing tools supporting creativity are often lacking for people with disabilities. Movement difficulties may prevent an individual from fully participating in their chosen activity.

Aim: Explore ways to enhance creative expression for people with disabilities. This could include the creation of new activities or fabrication of new tools.


  • Convert the user's existing assistive technology device into a creative "paintbrush" or "musical instrument"
  • Use non-traditional inputs such as residual movements or brain waves
  • Adapt or create instruments for musicians with disabilities
    One-Handed Musical Instrument (OHMI) Competition


Recommended Skillset: Various, depends on chosen solution


Back to top

Tactile Objects

Background: Tactile sensory sensations can help young children - including those who are blind or visually impaired - learn and understand ideas. Visual art learning can happen from direct sensory touching by hands. Tactile art making stimulates learning in different ways than visual or audio learning.

Problem: Without tactile opportunities, a child can miss out on important spatial learning.

Aim: Explore designs to fabricate a tactile creation - a work of art, a museum artifact, an educational tool, or a play toy - for a person who is blind or visually impaired.


Back to top

COVID-related Projects

Device to assist with donning a mask, gloves, gown
Device that provides automated hand washing and hand sanitizing
Device to facilitate independent cleaning and sanitizing of home surfaces
Other COVID-related issues

Back to top

Student-defined Projects

Meet with 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. Projects could address:
  • 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

Back to top

Small red dot  Title




Design Criteria:


Back to top

Updated 11/09/2021

back to homepage