HEALTHCARE + DESIGN

IMPROVING MULTI-DISCIPLINARY COLLABORATIONS

1.     Abstract

Collaborating in teams with people with disabilities is a potent way to immerse undergraduate Industrial Design (ID) students in the complexities of human centered design. Students personally witness the exclusion our poorly designed products and environments present to their partners with disabilities. Including experts from healthcare fields is a natural way to bring necessary medical competence to these teams. As a healthcare profession Occupational Therapy (OT) is a good fit for ID as the view, focus and skills are quite complementary. This paper details an on-going multi-disciplinary collaboration between two universities that joins OT graduate students, ID undergraduate students, and various people living with disabilities into participatory design teams. Despite the compatibility of these two fields there were professional differences that led to conflict on nearly every team. These differences were carefully unpacked to reveal the underlying causes. These insights will improve future collaborations.

2.     Relevence

The US is facing an unprecedented demographic shift toward an older population. By 2030 20% of our population will be 65 or older [CDC, 2011] and it is projected that at that point ten U.S. states will have more Medicare-eligible seniors than school-aged children [AARP, 2013]. This formidable shift in population means a tremendous shift in human needs and consequently a demand ...read more

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