Do you want to Participate?
By Keoke King
Haiti, May 2010, the earthquake was just months ago. We were providing a cutting-edge wheelchair, a freshly updated RoughRider which we were pretty proud of. The Hatians we met were unbelievable - resilient, kind, and forward looking in the face of an enormous loss of life and for many loss of family and function. I spoke with one man after he received his chair. I didn’t expect a big cheerful “Thank You”, with the loss of his leg, his problems were far from over.
“Thanks for this, but can I get a job?,” he said looking me straight in the eye.
What does participation mean to you? Economically? Socially? In experiences that expand our horizons, like travel and education? That man helped me to see that our clever technology and good intentions were helpful, but only partially. The desire opportunity for full participation and #inclusion4all seems to be universal.
Participation is something that everyone takes for granted at some point in their lives. Thought leaders from gender and race equality struggles have helped me understand. “Privilege is invisible to those who have it.” stated Michael Kimmel. Acknowledging that and then choosing inclusion so that there are actually fresh voices in the room - new participants - is in the fabric of who we are.
Design for real life
Simple things like elevators, taxis, beaches and parks can prevent some from fully participating in life. Those that are unable to participate fully--simply because of lack of accessibility--are denied a basic human right. As product designers, and realists, we recognize that the interface between the built environment, the product, and the user is critical.
60cm (23 inch) wide elevators in thousands of apartment towers in Northern Europe and Russia won’t be going away soon. So, we’re making Product1 as narrow enough to fit. Without sewer infrastructure in many cities, the 12 inch high curbs used to control rain water won’t be going away soon. For a wheelchair user, that is a dangerous cliff that would break most US chairs. So, we’ve designed a patent pending caster that absorbs shocks. The sun is out often and shade is such a relief, especially in the tropics. So, Product1 has a canopy.
We want children and their families to feel safe, secure, and comfortable as they venture into their community. Participant might not be able to rid the world of stigma and accessibility roadblocks. We can make wheels to help kids see the world in their own eyes, participate, and raise their voices for more.
Do you want to participate?
Of course, you want to participate! Everyone does. Could you reply on these two brief questions?