Assistive tech remains utterly marginalized from mainstream design

“Ugh! The dreaded tennis ball on the legs of a walker. Words cannot describe how unhappy this makes me. It’s the quintessential example of a design fail, but ask anyone who’s suffered through dragging the standard rubber walker feet around and they’ll tell you what a great little trick the tennis ball idea is.” Carla Jaspers

Hard to believe you have to supply your own dog toy tennis balls but it’s true, too hard without them. You’ll need to lash a bag to the walker, Kaiser supplied free for me, to hold your requisites.

Carla Jaspers: mainframe, September 13, 2012 by ABLERISM

Carla Jaspers is a New York-based designer trained both in occupational therapy and industrial design, and possibly the first person to properly rant about the ridiculousness of walkers-with-tennis-balls.

Jaspers raises this medicalized, ill-conceived structure as evidence that assistive tech remains utterly marginalized from the mainstream design field.

Carla writes that our cultural acceptance of this “adaptation” has been so complete that, rather than a re-imagining of the entire apparatus, there are braces designed to hold the tennis balls in place.

“What’s worse is that now manufacturers have made this phenomenon commonplace by making actual tennis ball attachments instead of improving the design of the initial object.”

So I love how Carla completely took this task apart, finding similarities in the walking gait and the task at hand with other common needs.



And landed finally on this “Mainframe” design, equally a mobility aid and hauling device for gear—you can hang bags, for instance, on the cross bars—or a provisional stroller.

See more of Carla Jaspers’ work at Gotham Machine

Visit Sara Hendren at Abler

Also see
An introduction to disability studies for engineers in Abler

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