Through the application of the Disability led Design approach, the children of the Energy Family Project association have transformed into young volunteers and, thanks to their ingenuity and creativity, have conceived the devices of the future.
How did the idea come about?
“Create your device” is an event organized by volunteers to put children at the center of the creation of devices. Its first edition was held in Rome, in the setting of the Fabulous Village, immersed in the pine forest of Castel Porziano, over two separate weekends. A first appointment was on the weekend of September 15th to 17th, while a second appointment was from September 22nd to 24th.
The idea was born from an e-Nable volunteer, as well as a PhD student in design at La Sapienza University of Rome, whose PhD thesis investigates the possibilities of a new approach to design, led by people with disabilities.
The approach is that of "Disability led Design" and allows us to go beyond simple user participation, the latter rather becomes a starting point and provides an essential contribution to the project. In contrast to other approaches, disability-led design “seeks to speculatively respond to, amplify, or celebrate some aspect of the identity and culture of people with disabilities. Disability-driven design outcomes are characterized by a change in how we perceive and interact with a category of object, space, or system, and a resulting change in the meaning assigned to it” (National Endowment for the Arts, 2021, p .23).
In fact, more and more often even in the industrial sector, a user-based process is being implemented, in which the design of devices and aids starts from the users, and not from designers removed from the context and environment in which these aids should be used .
With the aim of stimulating children in their creativity and inventiveness, starting from skills that they acquire at school, this different approach to design has been tested, so that the children themselves generate ideas for new devices, placing them at the center of a real creative process.
The goal is, starting from the ideas that the children have developed, leave the space for e-Nable makers to delve deeper into those ideas and make them reality, printing new unique and personalized devices that can help children in daily life, play and sport. The devices imagined by children will be the result of their creativity and will respond to needs that are important to them.
The event was accompanied by moments of play, relaxation and sharing. In addition to the children, the parents and, sometimes, the children's grandparents were also protagonists. Experiences were shared, problems and needs highlighted, and finally measures were taken for new devices, which some children received during the event.
The first day
The event had two appointments, each lasting two days. The mornings were dedicated to activities led by e-Nable volunteers, while the afternoons were left to moments of leisure in the swimming pool and on the campsite.
On Saturday morning, after breakfast, children and parents were guided to discover the e-Nable project. In fact, all the families knew about the Energy Family Project association, of which they are an active part, but very few of them had any idea of the activity of the e-Nable volunteers. While the parents then listened to a more technical explanation of the project, the children were told the story of “Vittoria and the strange train”.
Thanks to the story of Vittoria and Doctor Protesius, the children began to understand the work of the volunteers, the functioning of the 3D printer was explained to them and they empathized with little Vittoria, starting to want a train all for themselves too .
Once reunited, the children and their families were presented with some examples of the devices printed by the volunteers and their functions. At the moment of discovering those little toy hands, the children got excited and tried to understand what the different aids proposed were for. Last but not least, the Bike Adapter, a device presented by the association at Maker Faire 2022.
The children were then encouraged to draw their dream device. The goal was to let them imagine devices that could serve their daily lives.
The second day
On Sunday morning, after all the stimuli of Saturday morning, the children's creativity was left free. Plasticine, sheets and rulers, scissors, colors and everything needed to try to prototype a first example of a device were made available to them. The volunteers tried to guide the children and their siblings in creative development.
Just like the children, the parents were also put to the test. They had to try to come up with functional ideas for new devices that their children could use.
During these days, several interesting ideas emerged, which will guide the e-Nable makers in the conception of new devices to then share with the international community.
Furthermore, the entire process, which puts into practice the principles of Disability led Design, as well as the prototypes created from the children's ideas, will be described by e-Nable at this year's Maker Faire.