Swinburne PhD student Hana Philips is looking to change the way assistive technologies are developed for individuals with lived experience of disability.
As a practicing Occupational Therapist with a background in adult rehabilitation, Hana saw that clients using assistive technologies were unhappy with the impact the technology was having on their lives. She also realised that many assistive technologies do not meet the needs of clients and that there is an issue regarding lack of access and abandonment.
While Hana’s original research focused on a specific assistive technology and assessing the level of customisation required, her topic pivoted after she realised the complexity of the issue at hand.
Her renewed research focus is on how powerful collaborative design processes can be and addresses the need to change the status quo within the assistive technology industry.
“My research explores potential ways that collaborative design methodologies, such as participatory design and co-design can be applied to assistive technologies, while also identifying and evaluating potential benefits to individuals with lived experience of disability,” Hana says.
Inspiring the next gen
Hana recently presented her research to a group of Year 7 students from Rowville Secondary College, who attended a Swinburne tour of MedTechVic’s LivingAT Facility.
The LivingAT Facility is Australia’s first fully accessible space utilised for development and prototyping of enabling technology, products and services. The globally connected space has been carefully crafted to allow individuals living with a disability to fully contribute to the creative problem-solving process and help create meaningful outcomes.
The students from Rowville Secondary College are currently learning about the world of disability and how design and implementation of medical and assistive technology can play a significant role in enhancing the lives of individuals who need it most.
Hana’s presentation emphasised the importance of collaboration in designing medical and assistive technology, with a focus on involving people with lived experiences of disability in the design process.
“I was so impressed by the maturity that the students had in talking about some very complex spaces and their potential implications,” Hana says.
“It was amazing to see young students using these concepts and putting them into practice. It was also great to see how excited they were about using design thinking, and how close it is to what we are doing at Swinburne. Hopefully we will see some of the students in a few years at Swinburne.’
Director of MedTechVic, Professor Rachael McDonald says that teaching young people the importance of medical and assistive technology co-creation is integral to building an inclusive future for all.
“It is fantastic to see secondary school students immersed in enabling technologies and understanding the integral role co-creation plays in delivering life-changing solutions for people with lived disability experience,” she says.