PhilaU students create assistive devices for the disabled

Last week, Philadelphia University Occupational Therapy and Industrial Design students presented the results of a collaborative effort to design and build assistive devices for people with disabilities.

The event took place in the Kanbar Campus Center performance space, which was well-attended by students, clients, faculty, and members of the public.

The joint effort has been ongoing yearly at the University for 12 years, according to Director of Occupational Therapy Wendy Krupnick.

Colorful trifold poster board presentations detailed the processes as students spoke animatedly about the project they undertook last fall.

“It was good to get feedback from a client and really get a feel for how it feels to interact with a client,” said occupational therapy master’s candidate Kristen Gill, referring to her client Lisa Parsons, who suffered from an inability to grasp with her left hand due to a head injury.

The students assessed client needs then shared ideas and data with Industrial Design students, who created designs and prototypes, and in many cases, built working assistive devices. 

Many of the devices helped with daily activities such as eating, drinking, cleaning, opening and closing doors, taking photographs and pedaling a bicycle.

The experiential learning project goes beyond “a theoretical exercise,” said Associate Professor of Industrial Design Mike Leonard, “our students find ways of using our design talents and using our ability to take a look at human performance and build that into a solution. Some of these though are quite marketable products and make things better for everyone.”

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